|Date||27th April 2019|
|Competition||SAL Vets Cup|
|Kick-off Time||12:00 pm|
|Result||Won 2 ‐ 1|
Lions secured a superb double, adding the cup to the league title they won two weeks back, but boy were they forced to do it the hard way by a referee who took centre stage.
Losing skipper Alex Levack in the warm up was hardly ideal for Lions as they looked forward to taking on Albanians in the SAL Cup Final at the magnificent Bank of England ground on an absolute carpet of a pitch. Already shorn of 6 recognised frontmen it was going need others to step up, and step up they did to a man.
An even first period saw Lions with most of the ball, Adam Harvey, Craig Pearl and Dan Stanton dominant in midfield as Lions looked the more likely in the opening half hour. Max Radford, Tony Gold and Hadley Silver all with efforts on goal, a Pearl rocket stinging the keepers hands. Radford took a blow trying to get a shot off, his replacement Cash, in his first game back after injury, almost broke the deadlock with his first touch, but his curling low effort was tipped past the post by the keeper.
At the other end Guy Morris, Rob Glass, John Rayner and the evergreen Pete Lazard coped well with the Albanian threat, Lee in the Lions goal demonstrating fine handling when called upon. But literally on the half-time whistle Lions got caught, a deep cross found the wide forward who had escaped the clutches of Rayner, the powerful header seemed destined to give Albanians the lead but Lee somehow got across to make a worldie of a save.
Dan Piler came on to give Lazard a rest, and his early ball down the line found Gold. He skipped past his man, looked up and delivered. Was it a cross? Was it a shot? In the immortal words of Barry Davies “quite frankly who cares” as the ball floated over the head of the keeper and into the net via the far post.
But then enter the referee in a quite bizarre two minutes. A long ball saw Glass seemingly pulled back and the whistle duly blew. The official however saw it as a foul by Glass, a decision compounded by the award of a yellow card to the Lions man. Harvey protested, and rather than calm the incident, the referee enflamed things by ordering the Lions man off the pitch for a 10 minute sin bin. 30 seconds later and it was even worse. After the free kick had been blazed over, Glass retrieved the ball and spotted it to take the goal kick. The initial pass wasn’t on so he retreated to take it long only for the whistle to blow, the referee running all the way from half way to brandish a yellow card for time wasting…in the 55th minute! He then ran back, but as he got to half way was reminded by an opposing player that he had just booked Glass. Now in a pickle he had no choice but to go back and show the red card.
Lions re-organised, Silver and Gold withdrawn, Kleinamn and Lazard into the 9. The shape was good, and they repelled all that Albanians threw at them. 14 minutes however into the 10 minute sin bin (apparently 10 minutes of the ball in play the explanation) the brave resistance was broken as Albanian’s finally managed to find the man over in space in the box and he finished well.
Harvey was soon allowed back on though, and he was man possessed, driving Lions on. Breaking up play he burst past two men and got to the edge of the box from where he unleashed a left footed drive that flew low past the keeper. Ten minutes to play in which Morris and Lazard were immense, winning headers and making blocks, while on the break Stanton and Cash actually saw Lions come closest to scoring, twice the latter denied by good saves. As the clock ran down Lions to man gave their all, the final whistle sounding on a proper battling victory.