FOOTBALL OAKWOOD landed a huge psychological blow in the race for the MGBSFL Premier Division title by beating long-time leaders Hendon but joint-manager Dan Kristall insists his players will not get carried away ahead of this weekend’s re-match.
First-half strikes from Kyle Bentwood, Brad Wine and Alex Lee gave Oakwood the upper hand and, although they were forced to defend for long periods in the second half, Kristall described the victory as a big statement of intent.
Hen don were dangerous in the opening 30 minutes, with live wire Zac Lewis and Rocky Spitzer threatening early on, denied only by some athletic goalkeeping from Oakwood’s Dean Caplin.
Bentwood broke the deadlock with a goal of the season contender midway through the half. Latching on to a Hendon clearance 35 yards from goal, he didn’t break stride as he lashed home a delicious swerving volley into the top corner.
Hendon were shell-shocked and another fabulous finish, this time from Wine, put daylight between the teams. He produced a stunning swivel and shot high into the net.
The outstanding Lee added a third, curling a free-kick over the wall and into the top corner.
Hendon pushed Oakwood back after half-time, but a fine long-range finish from Rocky Spitzer in stoppage time was mere consolation.
Kristall said: “The game was tough but we managed to win it in a 10- minute spell where we shocked Hendon.
“I felt we were the much better side in the first half and other than the odd scare from the pace of the Hendon counter-attack, I felt we had control of the game and most of the possession.
“The second half was a different game where we defended very well and soaked up the pressure Hendon applied on us. They showed us what a good team they are in the second half and that they were not unbeaten in the league for no reason.”
Kristall went on to say some of the Oakwood performances have given Ric Blank and himself a selection headache ahead of the re-match.
“We still have lots to improve on and it was a welcome 90 minutes for players like Harvey Kaye and Kyle,” said Kristall.
“It’s never been so competitive for places than it is right now. We will have some difficult decisions to make this Sunday with players returning but that is a healthy position to be in.
“We know that David Garbacz will rally his troops this week and we expect a big response from them. We look forward to round two on Sunday.”
Hendon boss David Garbacz commended Oakwood for three “excellent finishes” but he believes the hosts were the better team.
“On another day we would have recovered but it just was not to be,” he
said. “Oakwood defended exceptionally well to keep us out as we were rampant for that period.
“We probably gave them a bit too much respect early on and sat back too deep but, once we realised we were the better footballing team, we took the game to them but the comeback was not to be.”
“On the plus side I think we go into Sunday return match with all the momentum. It will represent a virtual cup final for both teams.
“The title race promises to go right down to the wire with Redbridge still in the mix as well.”
Kyle Bentwood and Lee Warner celebrate Oakwood’s opening goal