MOLTEN SPARTAN SOUTH MIDLANDS LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
London Lions 3 Langford 1
London Lions bounced back in style following Saturday's disappointing 2-1 defeat away at Bedford with a 3-1 victory over Langford at Broxbourne.
Langford had given an inexperienced Lions side a battering earlier in the season, beating them 5-2 when goals from Max Kyte and Ben Ellis were nothing more then small consolation.
However, several months later and Langford faced an entirely different side full of pace, strength and experience.
It was Lions first midweek game since November and manager Tony Gold faced the usual problems of late withdrawals through illness and work commitments. With so many changes Gold moved away from his usual 4-5-1 formation and employed a 4-4-2 system.
Declan Green was given the nod once again between the sticks with Ricky Engleman coming in at right-back. The returning Aron Barnes slotted in at left-back and the usual pairing of Adam Myeroff and Kyle Bentwood at centre-half. Matt Stock was back after sitting some very important exams and employed at left-midfield. Sam Sloma and Craig Ellis took up central midfield positions, skipper Dean Nyman moved to right-midfield leaving TJ Keterman and Ben Ellis as the two target men up top. With Connor Perlmutter not showing, Josh Kennet pulling out with illness and David Souter getting stuck at work, Gold was the only named substitute.
A high octane affair saw the Lions show their intent early on. After five minutes Nyman went on a mazy run which ended with a superb shot beating the keeper but somehow the ball was cleared off the line by covering defender James Peters.
The early chance woke Langford up and they grew into the game with the pace of right full-back Ashley Fitton and left-winger Ben Sawyer always a threat.
It was the visitors who opened the scoring on 14 minutes. Barnes was caught dithering and his clearance was intercepted by Paul Garret. Garret's cross was cleared by Myeroff, but the ball fell invitingly 20 yards from goal to Jamie Osbourne who clinically dispatched the ball like a rocket into the bottom left hand corner of the goal giving Green no chance.
It was clearly game on and a chance to see what Lions were made of and see their response given the setback.
All night Langford were overly zealous and one such challenge from Ryan Ellis gave Lions a free-kick on 20 minutes and 25-yards from goal. Sam Sloma placed the ball down, took three steps back and curled in a peach of a goal to draw Lions level leaving everyone in the ground scratching their heads asking themselves 'did he really just do that'.
The pendulum swung in Lions favour on 30 minutes as Langford captain Shane Brown put in a crude two-footed challenge on Barnes leaving referee Mark Stevens, who officiated superbly, no choice but to brandish a straight red card.
Langford's manager Wes Burke was less than impressed with the decision and the Lions management even less impressed with the challenge which generated a lively encounter on the touchline.
Lions were unable to take advantage of the extra man as the half drew to a close although Ben Ellis almost gave the home side the lead only for his shot to miss by a matter of inches.
The message was clear at half-time from the Lions management; don’t panic, keep playing your football, stay disciplined and the chances will come.
As the second half ensued, Lions remained patient, but however hard they tried they seemed to lack that cutting edge that all-important break-through that would make the difference.
Langford resulted to getting every man behind the ball and hitting Lions on the counter and credit to the away side for continuously working hard and chasing Lions down.
Lions made a tactical change with 20 minutes remaining. Changing to a 4-3-3 formation, Barnes moved into an attacking midfield position alongside Sam Sloma and Craig Ellis with Keterman, Nyman and Stock playing as a three up top. Gold replaced Ben Ellis and moved into left back.
Within 10 minutes of the change Lions surged in front. Myeroff played out from the back to Gold who sent Stock clear down the left hand side. Stock's cross was parried by Langford’s keeper Grant Beckwith and only he will know what he was trying to do resulting in the ball falling to Nyman. With deadly accuracy, Nyman notched up his 16th goal of the season with a clinical finish.
Langford went in search of an equaliser in the final 10 minutes. They forced a corner five minutes from time and sent everyone into the Lions box. A great delivery was dealt with superbly by Green in the Lions goal and his punch, under extreme pressure, fell to Barnes on the edge of the Lions box. Barnes showed great vision to find Stock in space and sent him clear, and with Sloma bursting forward in support it was suddenly two on one. Stock unselfishly squared the ball to Sloma, who with still some work to do, drew the keeper out before dispatching a great finish to send the Lions team into raptures.
The final minutes were played out with Lions playing keep ball and at the final whistle it was another fantastic three points gained.
Lions manager Tony Gold said: "The team got somewhat of a wake-up call on Saturday; at this level you cannot go through the motions no matter who you are playing.
"Tonight they showed real character, especially after going a goal down. The sending off obviously put a different slant on things, but that does not always work out favourably as the team with a numerical advantage can get complacent.
"Thankfully we didn't. We remained disciplined under provocation and patient, and in the end wore them down and got what we deserved, three points.
"One defeat in our last seven games says it all now we must get ready for Amersham Town on Saturday and carry on the great work."
Lions: Declan Green, Aron Barnes, Adam Myeroff, Kyle Bentwood, Craig Ellis, Sam Sloma, Ricky Engleman, TJ Keterman, Dean Nyman, Matt Stock, Ben Ellis (sub: Tony Gold)
Goals: Sam Sloma (2), Dean Nyman
Man-of-the-match: Ricky Engleman