Sporting JLGB came from 3-1 down to win a thrilling Joan Collins Premier Division clash 4-3 against South Manchester 2nd at a windswept Hough End Playing Fields.
Jake Feinstein and Ben Polak put the hosts in control before Uri Steinberg pulled a goal back for JLGB. Ric Hershon restored South Manchester’s two goal advantage in the second half before a stirring comeback from the visitors thanks to another goal from Steinberg, Saul Davies and Adam Schwinger, to the delight of their manager Gavin Sharpe.
“Sporting will go from strength to strength on the basis that we are now a feared team to play and will give anyone a game. We can compete with the best as we have proved in beating some of the biggest teams in the league.”
South Manchester were quick to get into their stride as they dominated the early stages, helped by a strong wind blowing in their favour, creating two clear cut chances to score before Feinstein finally put them ahead after 10 minutes. Having been put through on goal, he drew Sporting goalkeeper Akiva Lieberman but shot straight at him and his shot was tipped onto the post. Fortunately for Feinstein it came straight back to him but again his follow up effort was stopped from going in, this time by a last ditch goal line clearance from x before Feinstein finally touched the ball over the line.
As the home team continued to enjoy the better of the play they were soon 2-0 up as Polak doubled the lead. With Sporting angered about the award of a free kick for offside to their opponents, they failed to pick up Polak, believing him to be offside when he was found from the subsequent set piece. Polak took full advantage as he ran through to slot past Lieberman.
Yet for all their possession, South Manchester failed to increase their lead further, and allowed Sporting back into the game before half time as Steinberg reduced the arrears. Their defence went to sleep as Adam Schwinger advanced and swung in a cross towards the unmarked Steinberg, who finished clinically, sending a left foot volley past Gary Stewart in the South Manchester goal.
It was the cue for a Sporting resurgence, and they begun to take more control of the game and show more signs of threatening the home goal. They could have been level, but Stewart made a superb reaction save from point blank range, though in doing so he injured himself and had to be replaced in goal by defender Nick Ingram.
In the second half Sporting found themselves on top, with the wind literally in their sails, giving them an advantage as their opponents found themselves running against the wind. Ironically, it was thanks to the wind that South Manchester restored their two goal advantage. A free kick swung into the box found Hershon, who managed to hook the ball over the advancing Lieberman, though his shot appeared destined to fly over the bar before the wind intervened, slowing down its trajectory and allowing it to dip underneath the crossbar.
By now Sporting were pouring forward and laying siege to the South Manchester goal, and within a minute of conceding again they were back in the game thanks to Saul Davies, who climbed to head home a corner from Sam Goodman. Minutes later, they were on level terms as a long goal kick from Lieberman was somehow kept in play by the outstanding Rafi Bloom, who swept the ball across goal, presenting Steinberg with the simple task of prodding the ball into the net.
With the momentum as well as the wind now behind them it was only a matter of time until Sharpe’s side took the lead for the first time in the game, and with 10 minutes to go they finally found themselves ahead. A shot appeared to hit the hand of a South Manchester defender before ricocheting into the path of Schwinger, who rifled the ball home before the appeals for a penalty had begun.
With Sporting ahead, it looked as though the game was over, but South Manchester were always in the game and had a chance to level the scores just before the end of the game as Mark Collins hit a free kick which hit the post and came out to the relief of Sporting, who clung on to secure three points.
Home manager Neil Collins was disappointed with his team’s performance, feeling as though they should have put the game out of sight, but crediting Sporting with a deserved victory.
“They wanted it more than we did. The wind did play a part, but we should have taken our chances to have the game sewn up well before they took control.”