London Lions reserves climbed to second in the Herts Senior County League Division One courtesy of a 6-1 drubbing of Bovingdon, the team’s fourth consecutive league victory.
The were five changes from the previous week, including Andy Myers, returning after a month’s suspension and Richard Baum and Josh Gordon, both answering late call-ups for their first appearances of the season in a Lions shirt.
Lining up in a more defensive than usual 4-4-2 formation, manager Jon Green demanded 90 minutes focus and concentration for what has always been a tough fixture.
It was not immediately apparent that the message had got through. Within 60 seconds of the start and under pressure, Ori Kobi’s sliced clearance went straight to Bovingdon’s young central midfielder, whose dipping shot, from 20 yards, found the far corner of Danny Berliner’s goal.
For five minutes Lions were rattled and their failure to retain possession was causing alarm, then Bradley Lazarus and Joel Ross took the game by the scruff and everything changed. Lazarus won the ball wide on the left and fed Ross, who beat two men and was denied a goal by the legs of the keeper. Lazarus swung the corner into the near post, Ross flicked on and Danny Schindler scored with his trademark diving header.
Another corner was only half-cleared, Lazarus swung in a deep cross, met by Schindler at the far post, 2-1. Ross’s pace and touch troubled the Bovingdon centre backs all afternoon and he scored his first and Lions’ third, collecting Lazarus’ sublime crossfield pass and applying a cool finish from just inside the box.
By now, Lions were playing with style and authority, throughout the team. Ori Kobi is growing in confidence week by week, and his movement and passing brings a subtlety to the midfield and some of the link-up play with Ross, Baum and Lazarus was beautiful to watch.
Skipper Timmy Becker, clearly thriving on a more settled domestic situation, was at the heart of it all, winning tackles and headers, receiving the ball short from defenders and changing the direction of play.
Having made the first three goals, Lazarus scored the fourth himself, smashing home a free kick from 25 yards. Helman and Lauffer were ensuring that Bovingdon found no joy from wide positions, Schindler and Myers broke up every attack down the centre and Berliner was largely unoccupied in goal.
James Stanley, returning after injury, was beginning to finding space to attack down the right flank. Latching on to Myers’ hopeful punt forward, he outpaced the fullback and his fierce drive whistled narrowly over. Schindler then brought the ball out of defence and found Ross wide on the right, with a perfect reverse pass. Ross crossed precisely and Richard Baum headed home expertly.
With the game effectively over and a strong wind swirling, the second half was largely devoid of drama. Ross notched his second and Lions’ sixth, a five-man move ending with Kobi finding Ross unmarked on the edge of the area.
Josh Gordon replaced Adam Lauffer and settled in quickly, winning his tackles and getting forward at pace to support attacks. Baum, Stanley and Myers all had chances to increase the margin and, in the last move of the game, Ross’s cushioned header found Becker, whose stinging volley was tipped around the post by the ‘keeper at full stretch. So 6-1 it finished and Lions will entertain Buntingford next week, in the Reserve Cup, in good heart and good form.
In another excellent team performance there were two stand-out candidates for man of the match, with Joel Ross perhaps just shading it over Bradley Lazarus, though both can be proud of their key contributions.
Lions reserves: Danny Berliner, Adam Lauffer (sub: Josh Gordon), James Stanley, Danny Shindler, Andrew Myers, Bradley Lazarus, Daniel Helman, Tim Becker, Joel Ross, Ori Kobi, Richard Baum
Man-of-the-match: Joel Ross