MOLTEN SPARTAN SOUTH MIDLANDS LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
London Lions 2 Buckingham Athletic 1
Goals from Josh Kennet and Ben Ellis kept London Lions' incredible run of form going as they beat Buckingham Athletic 2-1 at Broxbourne Borough FC.
Buckingham Athletic arrived at Broxbourne embroiled in a relegation dog-fight, knowing that three points were vital for their survival. Last weekend they beat league leaders London Colney 1-0 so Lions knew that unless they were on their A-game, it would be a very uncomfortable afternoon.
Lions had a goalkeeping crisis to overcome. With Mario Cenolli, Danny Berliner, Declan Green, Dan Lee, Jack Franks and Sam Castle all unavailable for one reason and another, Lions manager Tony Gold managed to sign Under 18 Wingate keeper Sam Singer. The 16-year-old stopper has a very bright footballing future if his performance against Buckingham was anything to go by.
With Craig Ellis injured and Ricky Engleman ill, Matt Stock and Michael Sacks were reinstated into the starting eleven following impressive performances the week before in the reserves. Andy Sheena, Danny Berg and Connor Perlmutter made up the Lions bench with the latter failing to show once again, highlighting the incredible arrogance of youth.
The Broxbourne pitch, which is starting to resemble the Serengeti in Tanzania actually that is doing a disservice to the Serengeti, has made it virtually impossible for any football to be played.
Lions have learnt to adapt well to the bumpy, rutted surface but it certainly takes away the word ‘beautiful’ from the game.
Once the game got under way it immediately had that end-of-season feel to it even though Buckingham knew three points even one point would massively help their cause to fight off relegation.
For the first 15 minutes Lions failed to get out of first gear, but even with the lethargic approach they seemed in full control of proceedings. Then on 20 minutes a moment of brilliance from Kennet lit up what had been up until then a rather dull afternoon.
Ben Lampert fed the ball to Ben Ellis down in the left-hand channel, cutting inside, his accurate pass found Kennet who turned and from 25-yards lashed home an unstoppable first time shot which Paul Warnecki in the visitors goal could only watch and admire.
The goal lifted the tempo of the game slightly with Buckingham now showing a bit more urgency and Lions suddenly hungry for a second. Dean Nyman, Ben Ellis, Matt Stock, Sam Sloma and Aron Barnes all missed openings to extend Lions lead and perhaps put the game out of sight.
Just before the interval Buckingham were awarded a free-kick 15 yards from goal. Johnny Cater curled the ball over the Lions wall and with it destined for the bottom corner young Singer darted down to his left and saved superbly.
The half time message was clear for Lions; up the tempo and show a lot more urgency or suffer the same consequences as last week or worse.
Buckingham certainly upped their game in the second period pressurising Lions back four which started to result in a number of uncharacteristic mistakes. Scott Laitham and Cater, who were lively all afternoon in forward areas for the visitors, started to ask questions of Kyle Bentwood and Sacks.
Just as it looked like the tide of the game was turning Lions doubled their lead with half an hour remaining. Great work in the right hand channel by Stock saw him beat his full back, get to the by-line and cross a peach of a ball which was just waiting for someone to tuck home. That someone was Ben Ellis as he composed himself and finished with an aplomb.
At this point Lions should have imposed themselves further and perhaps gone for the jugular, but credit to Buckingham for digging in and showing great resolve, a resolve that will surely be enough to keep them up.
With the Lions defence and strikers becoming more erratic, Buckingham accepted an opportunity to get back into the game. Adam Myeroff failed to close down a cross form Mark Peedell, and after a brief scramble in the Lions box Patrick Hooper pounced to give the visitors some hope of snatching something from the game with 20 minutes to play.
Andy Sheena came on to replace Ellis and with Buckingham throwing everything at Lions bar the kitchen sink in the final moments, they thought they had snatched a vital point. However, a brilliant double save from Singer in the Lions goal ensured Lions kept their one goal advantage and added another three points to take them to 68 points - four more then they received last year with three games to play.
Lions manager Tony Gold said: "Once again the pitch hasn't done us any favours. We are a footballing side and it is making it impossible for us to play the way we want.
"Our lack of composure in front of goal caused us problems today because defensively we weren’t at our best.
"That said, we had a 16-year-old in goal who in my opinion showed great maturity and did fantastically well in what could easily have been quite an intimidating situation. For someone so young, playing in the position he does it was a remarkable performance.
"Although I'm always striving for perfection, and that will never change, the lads once again showed great courage and resolve against a side desperate for points and coming here on the back of a great win against London Colney. It has been a very long season for some of the players with three of my back four today playing no less than 117 games between them.
"To already have surpassed last season's points total with three games to play is a great credit to each and every one of the players."
Lions: Alex Singer, Ben Lampert, Adam Myeroff, Kyle Bentwood, Michael Sacks, Aron Barnes, Sam Sloma, Josh Kennet, Dean Nyman, Matt Stock, Ben Ellis (sub: Andy Sheena)
Goals: Josh Kennet, Ben Ellis