LIGERS SNATCH DRAW FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY
By Neil SINCLAIR
George Lee double secures draw after Ligers let slip 3 goal lead
Ligers staged an astonishing last minute finale to rescue a game that they appeared to have romped away with only 15 minutes earlier. Travelling to Berks County Sports Ground to take on AFC Charvil in their first game in Div 4, Ligers quickly looked like their slick passing would be too much for the hosts. But a lack of physicality and maybe too much time on the game consul over Christmas almost undid them.
This ground is becoming a familiar venue for the Teddlothian boys, and they seemed to cope reasonably well with playing up the slope in the first half. Within seconds of the kick-off, Dylan Tomlinson found himself within sight of goal and whistled a shot beyond the post. With Charvil unable to retain the ball from the goal-kick, John Humphrey took a pass from Sam Bates to go on a dazzling run down the right. A low, pin-point cross found Frazer Pickrell inside the six yard box and he made no mistake to put Ligers ahead.
Ligers moved the ball round neatly while Joe Wallis and captain Toby Chilvers easily dealt with everything that Charvil played into Ligers' half. Dylan Tomlinson and George L both brought saves out of goalkeeper Joshua Mundy. Although the Charvil keeper looked a little unsure at times, he was quick enough to react to thwart Gabriel as the latter looked to pounce on any fumbles, and he did very well to block a clever back-heel attempt from the Hearts striker a little later.
It was almost quarter of an hour in to the match before Charvil got into a goal-scoring position but for much of the half their shooting was either wayward or far too tame to trouble Matthew Barrett. Matthew also showed how good his reading of the game is becoming, frequently coming off his line in plenty of time to kill the Charvil attack. The home supporters felt that, with a bit more composure, they could have had several goals in the first half but in truth the Hearts defence dealt adequately with most things that came their way, and Charvil had little appetite for tackling Dylan once he picked the ball up in midfield. Even when Toby had to leave the field with an injury after 22 minutes, the re-jigged Ligers defence looked comfortable. The only tactic that unsettled them was the long, torpedo-like throw of Lucy Simpson, but her team-mates were unable to capitalise on the disarray it caused. It was Ligers who ended the half confidently on top, George P-M and Dylan both going close before the referee, having forgotten what age group he was over-seeing, brought the half to a somewhat premature close.
The second half kicked-off with Toby restored to the defence in place of Joe, and Ilyas Akhtar replacing Sam at right back. Charvil were quick to take advantage and laid siege to Matt's goal. George L and Gabe found themselves increasingly isolated up front as Charvil out-muscled the league's newcomers. Hearts were now struggling to retain possession and Charvil were finding plenty of space to get forward on the left. But they were still unable to finish and, having weathered the early storm, Ligers did re-discover their standards of the first half. It was John's clever dribbling that eventually got Hearts back up the field and after George P-M had a shot saved, it was the goal-machine George Lee who got on the end of Daniel Kubinskyy's excellent corner to double Ligers' lead.
In spite of this set-back, Charvil were increasingly threatening. Once again the Ligers' goal came under threat and there was a series of corners and goal-mouth scrambles as Ligers struggled to win any second balls. Eventually, it took a blistering run from an otherwise very subdued Gabriel to relieve the pressure. When he was eventually blocked in the opponents' penalty area, Gabe found George Perez-Medina with a reverse pass who finished with panache to seemingly secure a comfortable victory. Hearts continued to press and Gabe failed to convert two chances, believing himself to be offside when in fact there was no flag.
With just fifteen minutes to go, everything turned on its head. Whether Ligers thought the job was complete or they quite simply ran out of steam, Charvil surged back into the game with two goals in 90 seconds and with 10 minutes still on the clock, the game was back on. Sam returned to the fray in place of John, but it had little effect. The whole Ligers team was all at sea, being over-run in every area of the pitch. As the game entered the final minute, Charvil equalised. Now Ligers were struggling to hold on and within 50 seconds a long-range effort flew past Matt to seemingly give Charvil what had looked like an impossible victory.
From somewhere, the referee found an extra minute. Ligers stormed downfield from the re-start and George Lee smashed home a last gasp equaliser from the edge of the box. What a finish!
It was an extraordinary game. It probably lacked any pattern at all. Both teams ebbed and flowed, and individuals oscillated between excellence and ineptitude. It certainly made for an exciting morning!