FOOTBALL RYAN Springer insists the result was all that mattered after the Lions ended Redbridge’s hopes of a possible league and cup double with a dramatic victory at Wingate & Finchley.
Adam Arnold had given a young Lions team the upper hand with a sublime early strike before Zac Neiman drew Redbridge level early in the second half. With extra-time looming, super-sub Adam Burchell won it for the Lions with an ice-cool finish, breaking Redbridge hearts.
“It wasn’t a game for the football purists,” said Springer. “It was physical, committed and it was difficult for the referee. But along with his officials, he was on top of things and did well to control some aggressive incidents in both halves.”
Redbridge could, and really should, have secured victory in a first half they dominated, but were left to rue a series of missed chances on a day of frustration.
Lions — who lined up with a front three of Max Kyte, Austin Lipman and Arnold — were pushed back in the opening stages, with Dean Nyman, Russell Goldstein and Sam Sollosi pulling the strings. But it was Lions who struck first when Arnold showed great close control before deftly lobbing the ball into the roof of the net from 20 yards. Dan Lee was rooted to the spot.
Redbridge responded, with Nyman and Goldstein spurning a series of chances in a match interrupted by a series of niggling fouls and flashpoints.
The east Londoners deservedly hauled themselves level early in the second half as a free-kick was touched to the impressive Neiman who rifled a low shot past Mexican goalkeeper David Sacal from 25 yards.
Former Arsenal under-21 star Lipman then rattled the crossbar with a thunderous shot but the Lions were not to be denied. A moment of magic from Arnold saw his inch-perfect pass find Burchell who had timed his run to perfection and stroked the ball past the outstretched hand of Lee and spark scenes of wild celebration.
The final whistle sounded shortly after as the Lions bench erupted, and the Redbridge players, who had given their all, dropped to their knees.
Springer said: “We set out to be resilient and hard to break down. I was always confident that as long as we didn’t concede early, our attacking players would take their chances. Possession doesn’t win you games - we’ve learnt that this season.”
Springer was delighted by the manner of the victory and said: “We scored two exceptional goals, both in which Arny showed his technical class. We’re just delighted he got to Wingate after missing the pre-match meal the night before.
“Burch took his match-winner with great composure — he’s popped up with goals at crucial moments this season, especially in both cup competitions.”
Redbridge boss Jon Jacobs expressed disappointment but congratulated the Lions for some clinical finishing.
He said: “I thought we had more than enough to win and I am so proud of all of the boys and the effort they put in. They will have to use this defeat as motivation for the remaining two games of the season.”
“We needed to have been out of sight in this game to win this but credit to Lions who stuck to their game-plan.
Critical of some decisions, Jacobs added: “This game will rankle in east London for years to come, but we will take this bitter pill and use it to go and win the Premier League and bring back some deserved silverware.”
Victories over Raiders and Hendon will see them lift the MGBSFL crown and pip Oakwood to the title.
It was physical and difficult for the referee
1. Adam Arnold is congratulated by his team-mates for his brilliant opener. 2. Adam Burchell celebrates his dramatic late winner. 3. Russell Goldstein is denied by MLL goalkeeper David Sacal. 4. MLL manager Ryan Springer is thrown in the air before his players pose for the traditional trophy shot