Berkhamsted 9 London Lions 2
London Lions crashed out of the Challenge Trophy following a 9-2 demolition against Berkhamsted.
Following their 2-1 FA Cup exit at the hands of London ASPA, the Lions fielded the youngest-ever side for a first-team fixture.
Manager Tony Gold said: "The result was in no way a true reflection on the Lions overall performance. At the final whistle the young lads could come off the pitch with their heads held high as in truth there was no disgrace in losing to an excellent Berkhamsted side that were fitter, physically stronger and full of experience."
In spells during the game, the young Lions more then matched their opponents but in the end it really was men against boys.
Berkhamsted took the lead on 15 minutes after a cross from the left hand side found the head of Aaron Usmani who rose to finish neatly.
It would have been easy for the youngsters to cave in at that point, but they showed real character by digging in and then pulling a deserved equaliser back. Young Max Kyte picked up a lovely through ball from George Fierstone held off his marker and slipped a lovely finish past Farmer in the Berko goal.
Berko then lifted the tempo and started to get in amongst the young Lions players. Within a 10-minute period Lions conceded two cheap goals from set-pieces as the naivety and inexperience of the team started to show for the first time.
Berko’s Hatherly and O’Farrell were becoming a real handful and Harewood-Williams started to dominate in midfield.
Seconds before the half-time whistle, Lions conceded a fourth. Declan Green, who had pulled off a hand full of excellent saves minutes earlier, misjudged the flight of the ball losing it in the floodlights and O’Farrell was on hand to tuck it away.
The 4-1 half-time lead to Berko certainly did not reflect the hard work and commitment shown by the Lions side.
As the second half got under way, Lions once again went straight for their opponents. Teenagers Nicky Lewis and Jordan Marks were causing problems of their own on the flanks with good runs ad positive attacking football.
Lions were then hit by another soft goal as Cameron Most got caught in possession and Berko punished the Lions with another goal.
The young Lions kept at it and minutes later were rewarded once again. Marks went on a great run down the left whipped in a delightful cross for Andy Glynne to nod home.
With Lions 5-2 down and with 30 minutes remaining, they dug in again and carried on trying to play their football. Fierstone almost made it 5-3 when his fierce shot just flew inches over the bar.
As the game entered the final 25 minutes, Berkhamsted’s superior fitness, strength and experience told as they notched another four goals as a tired looking young Lions side looked dead on their feet.
In the end Lions went out of the Challenge Trophy but the young lads would take away a lot of positives, a great experience and more importantly valuable lessons about what is required at this level of football which will ultimately make them stronger moving forward.
Lions manager Tony Gold said: "I was extremely proud of each and every one of the players tonight. When you consider that we had eight players out there tonight Under 20 and two who are just 16, they did incredibly well against a side who would have given our regular first 11 a tough game.
"It wasn’t a gamble. I knew it was going to be incredibly difficult but what a fantastic advert for the club to see years of hard work in the junior section paying dividends.
“I said to the lads before the game I couldn’t care less about the result tonight. The important aspect from their point of view and mine was for them to go out play their football and work as hard as possible whilst enjoying the experience as much as they could.
“They showed incredible character to level at 1-1 and yes there were a lot of mistakes which led to six of their nine goals but these lads are raw and inexperienced.
"One thing is for sure and I can guarantee it, they will all be 100 per cent better players following this experience.
“In the end Berkhamsted’s quality, fitness and physical strength told massively and so it should.
“Tonight, at times, it was certainly men against boys, but by the end of the night some of my boys became men and that was very pleasing to see.
Lions: Declan Green, Adam Myeroff, Harry Hatchwell, Max Kyte, Cameron Most, Andy Glynne, Nicky Lewis, George Fierstone, Ben Lampert, Jordan Marks, Michael Kenley