Jamie Cole admits that he faces a major selection headache after his patchwork JC MSFL Rep team advanced to the final of the London Inter-League Cup.
Goals by winger Ben Ellis and a wonder strike from Danny Daggers ensured a 2-0 win over the North London and South Herts League side at Brimsdown Rovers on Thursday night.
Devoid of the likes of Paul Hakim, Adam Stolerman and Daniel Stanton, Cole’s side booked their place in the final next month thanks to graft rather than skill, and a little luck - as they survived an early onslaught.
“We’ve shown a hell of a lot of endeavour and good organisation out there,” Cole told JC Sport. “I’m very proud as it’s the first time we’ve reached the final in a five years.
“We rode our luck early on but then came the sting- when Ellis scored,” said Cole, in his first campaign as the Rep team manager.
Admitting that he is faced with having to disappoint “seven or eight players”, who will not even be in his 16 for the final, Cole insisted: “I’ll pick the unit which can go out and play the system that will win the game, not necessarily the best 11 players.”
Deploying a five-man midfield, Cole adopted a cautious approach, which involved putting eight men behind the ball for much of the game; the spine of the side – Danny Berliner, Adam Hakimi, Paul Lenchner and the excellent Alex Levack – held the team together, as the Reps’ superior teamwork and work-rate kept the opposition at bay.
It might have been a different story had their opponents, who included a former Watford trainee on the left-wing, taken their chances, but three remarkable saves by Berliner - the best of which was a tip onto the post from a pile-driver, meant it was not going to be their night.
Instead goals either side of the break from Ellis, after a Levack inswinging corner was volleyed back across by Lenchner for a simple tap-in, and a wondrous 35-yard half-volley from Daggers which hit the top of the net, made for a comfortable end to a game which the Reps only needed to draw to advance through.
Cole said: “We fully deserved to win. We had to get back to the right mentality and that is hard; it's hard because we came up against a very strong opposition.
"We have a number of players making their Rep team debut and they did let anyone down. Reaching the final has been a real team effort with over 20 different players being involved.”
JC MSFL: Danny Berliner; Russ Leiter, Adam Hakimi, Paul Lenchner, Alex Taylor; Ben Ellis, Alex Levack (capt), Danny Daggers (sub: Andy Glynne 70), Matt Sofier, Rob Lerner (sub: Jake Gottlieb, 46), Daryl Phillips (sub: Richard Salmon 80)
JC Men of the match: Berliner and Hakimi