MGBSFL PREMIER DIVISION
OAKWOOD A 2 NORSTAR LONDON RAIDERS A 3
Norstar London Raiders extended their lead at the top of the MSFL but had to do it the hard way, coming back from 2-1 down to record a 3-2 victory over Oakwood A.
Goals from Matt Stock, David Dinkin and Zac McLeod sealed the points for Norstar who are now six points clear at the top.
After a couple of weeks away from league football, one could have expected Raiders to start slowly, but the boys in orange had other ideas. Some strong running from Matt Stock saw the tricky winger play a smart one-two with Josh Green before taking the ball past the last man and finishing into the roof of the net.
Neither side found it easy to settle in the blustery and bumpy conditions and Oakwood were to benefit after Raiders’ Dan Grossman failed to deal with a pass back to him allowing Bobby Cousins to steal the ball on the halfway line and have a free run on goal leaving Jake Doffman with no chance.
Grossman’s day was to go from bad to worse soon after when instead of clearing a relatively easy ball back down the field, his left foot somehow conspired against him to score one of the greatest own goals every seen – a 30-yard curling effort – a goal of the season contender if scored at the other end – again leaving Doffman with no chance.
Norstar found themselves 2-1 down at half time – the first time this season their first league goals conceded since September – but rather than let their heads drop were determined to show the watching cameras that there is a good reason they are top of the league.
Once again, the visitors came flying out of the blocks and when Josh Pistol was felled in the Oakwood penalty area, referee Gary Silver had little hesitation in pointing to the spot. Up stepped David Dinkin to stroke the ball home for the equaliser.
Raiders continued to up the pressure and - now with the wind in their favour - were constantly pushing for a third goal, lifted by skipper David Rhodes who was winning everything in the middle of the park throughout the game.
The introduction of Zak Mcleod for his first team debut was set to be crucial and soon after entering the arena it was Mcleod himself who scored what turned out to be the vital goal taking the ball from near the halfway line, darting towards the goal, sidestepping the keeper and then dribbling the ball into the net.
Elliot Espinoza replaced Dinkin to tighten up the midfield and see out the game, however there was to be one last piece of drama when in the last minute of stoppage time an awkward bounce from Oakwood’s last throw of the game saw the ball ricochet off Jonny Kay’s chest and onto his arm.
Again, Silver pointed to the spot and Raiders feared the worst. However Dan Geey – Oakwood’s Mr Reliable – could not replicate Dinkin’s effort and with the final kick of the game blazed the ball over the bar: celebration for the travelling fans, devastation for the home faithful.
NLR boss Phil Peters told JC Sport: "I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier about three points in all my years managing in Jewish football, nor have I ever felt my heart pound so fast.
"I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that – it’s a horrendous feeling and I feel for Ric, Al and the Oakwood boys being on the receiving end of that.
"Our respective DG’s (Dan Grossman and Dan Geey) are the two most experienced, consistent and reliable players at our clubs and it’s good for the young players to see that it can happen to the best of them. They’ll both bounce back.
"We move on to play Hendon next week with confidence sky high. All the pressure’s on them so we will look forward to that one and am sure we’ll be able to use the huge pitch at Hadley to our benefit.
"But for now we’ll enjoy today’s victory and enjoy another week at the top of the table."
Oaks joint-manager Ric Blank told JC Sport: "We were so disappointed to lose the game. 2-1 up at half time and by far the better side, I really felt we were going to push on and win.
"We'd lost Adam Levine in the build up, but it hadn't mattered as Sam Jacobson and Ilan Scorah helped us recover from going a goal behind early on and built a platform for us to grow. Brad down the right, Ashy on the left and Bobbie up top were causing so many problems it was no surprise when we equalised before going in front with the most bizarre own goal you'll ever see from Dan Grossman. He absolutely belted it in his own net from 25 yards. It was worth getting out of bed for. I think he did it in disgust at the way his old partner in crime Rik Sherman had been treated by the new management. Fair play to you Grossy. Stand up for what you believe in I say.
"Unfortunately the wind was playing a huge part and we were keen to get the third goal before we switched ends. Gary Silver blew up for half time as Brad ran through on goal. That would prove to be a crucial moment in an eventful game.
"At half time we spoke about discipline, dealing with the wind and being patient. A minute in we conceded a ludicrous penalty and Dinkin with what could have been his only touch of the game made it 2-2 from the spot. We have to learn as a team to be less rash in the tackle. Everyone knows we are a physical, aggressive and fair team. But sometimes we concede goals others don't because we're not smart enough. I am in no doubt we'd have won that game if we were still in front after an hour. We were the better team.
"We had chances to go back in front but Doffman made a fantastic save from Cousins. Raiders went in front when our back four got too square, but we should have taken a point with a penalty at the death. Unfortunately Dan Geey blazed over with the last kick of the game. It was tough to take. But we were masters of our own downfall.
"This season we've completely outplayed Faithfold and lost, contrived to throw away points in the 93rd minute against Brady and now Raiders. I have a fantastic group of lads at my disposal at this club and I don't take that for granted. But now we need to come together, put the team first, get a result against Camden and start climbing up that league table."