Alexandra Park 9s 4 – Old Lyonians 5s 1

SAL Minor Div 4 North | March 26, 2016

Scorers: Robert Holder, Freddie Wells, Joe Nicholls, Gerry Lepkowski

The AP 9s kept their title hopes alive with a second win in three games against Old Lyonians 5s on Saturday. Goals from Joe Nichols, Gerry Lepkowski, Freddie Wells and Robert Holder ensured a 4-1 victory that keeps the 9s three points behind leaders St James’ Old Boys.

The game was not without controversy; three incidents in particular came under scrutiny in the post match team discussion.

The first of these was a penalty awarded to the Lyons for a handball by Joe Nichols midway through the first half with the score at 0-0. The offender continues to argue that while yes, the ball had struck his left hand, it had been kicked from almost point-blank range with his arm down by his side. A nearby Lyons player agreed with the left back’s protestations, but the decision stood. In the end, justice was done as Thanos Grassos in the AP goal guessed correctly and pulled off a smart stop to his left hand side.

That save invigorated Park, Nichols in particular, and they were ahead five minutes later thanks to the defender’s first 11-a-side goal in six years. Nichols started move in his own half, finding Freddie Wells on the left wing, who in turn played a neat pass into striker Robert Holder’s feet on the edge of the Lyons’ box. Nichols had continued his run down the left hand side, and Holder managed to slip him in for a one-on-one with the ‘keeper, which he finished at the near post. Unconfirmed reports suggest that he has been thinking about this moment at work for three days since.

The Lyons reacted well to going a goal down; AP had to withstand considerable pressure for the next ten or so minutes, with Grassos making another good save from a free-kick. The back three of Nichols, Cotterill and Coward held out, however, and it was 2-0 just before the half thanks to another spectacular Lepkowski goal.

Two weeks after a 25-yard game winning free kick against Old Garchonians, Lepkowski found himself with the ball at his feet on the edge of the box after some neat interplay down the right hand side between Matt Sarna and Wells, who had drifted infield, and once more curled the ball right footed into the top corner.

Old Lyonians gave themselves hope at the start of the second half with a similarly spectacular smash-and-grab goal from the edge of the area, and it was nearly 2-2 moments later as their striker nearly found himself clean through on goal before being denied by a block by Nichols. After this, the game was even for much of the second half with both teams having chances to score, but happily, the all-important fourth goal of the match went to AP, with Freddie Wells looping a half volley over the Lyons’ ‘keeper from 25 yards. The second moment of controversy came with ten minutes remaining, as Holder, who had moments earlier spurned a chance to make it 4-1, did so from what he assures us against the evidence of our lying eyes was an onside position. The referee was not swayed by the Lyons’ arguments, and perhaps it was this that served to antagonise them into the third controversial incident just before the final whistle. When a Lyons corner was cleared and the men on the post attempted to move off the line, a Lyons player bizarrely held Matt Sarna in a chokehold against the goalpost. In the ensuing handbags, he pulled his fist back as if to punch the midfielder, but the referee took no action. This ended what had been an otherwise good-natured game on a sour note, but it does not detract from a very encouraging team performance from AP as the season approaches the home straight.

The 9s will most likely have to win at least two and probably all of their last three games to have a shot at the title, but this win gives them the best foundation possible, and if a similar standard is reached for the rest of the season, there is certainly hope to be had.

9th Team / Match Reports