South Bank defence shines as title creeps into sight

Darnell Depradine’s brilliant header saw LSBU take the spoils over UCL in this table topping six pointer

 

Having comfortably dispatched a spirited but underwhelming Middlesex the week before with ease, this game proved to be the exact opposite in more than just score line. It was a game that held all the hallmarks of a top of the table clash. LSBU were just a point behind UCL but with a game in hand. UCL had dispensed with the other team vying for the title – Suffolk the week before. A draw would have made South Bank favourites for the title, a defeat would hand the initiative back to UCL.

 

The pitch before South Bank ensured that a smooth, quick passing rhythm was unlikely to flow. The bobbles meant the fall never stayed flat across the turf. Acclimatising to this surface from the smooth astro turf of Burgess Park meant that South Bank started the game firmly on the back foot.

 

After a poor clearance, the ball was slid into the LSBU box, some grappling failed to stop the ball being squared to the middle where the pitch made its first intervention, the ball bobbled up meaning the scuffed goalwards shot was comfortably, yet vitally blocked on the line by Clive Sarireni.

 

It was South Bank that had the best chance of the game so far. Exploiting a weak UCL backline, a brilliant lofted through ball from Amin Martinez found LSBU striker James Leyton. Having already bagged a dozen goals this season, you would have bet that after showing excellent control to bring the ball down and bear down on goal, he would have slotted his shot past the keeper but it wasn’t to be as his poked shot went agonisingly wide.

 

In game of such fine margins, it often takes either a moment of brilliance or moment of luck to produce a goal. In the case of the opening goal, it was neither. Just a long through into the box from the left wing. The ball sailed over everyone only to be met on the six-yard line by a gleeful UCL poacher who volley home the simplest and most frustrating of goals to reward UCL’s dominance thus far.

 

South Bank were firmly on the back foot and were indebted to their keeper Joe Cook who made the first of a string of saves to keep his team in the game. A well placed through ball from the left wing was seized upon by the UCL man who without needing a touch, struck his shot goalwards bring a smart save from Cook and keeping the game to within the one goal. South Bank almost broke the dominant period by scoring against the run of play. A throw in of their own from Bradley Baterip on the right was controlled by Leyton despite a big shunt in the back, getting back up quickly and showing all the dogged determination that has shone throughout his season, he turned his man and dinked a cross to the back post. It found an onrushing Kaylem Weadock who planted his volley straight into the ground where it bounced painfully over the bar and it was yet another golden chance gone awry.

 

UCL responded with the best chance since going in front. An interception in midfield was grabbed by the UCL defender, the loose ball was nudged around the oncoming LSBU defender leaving the UCL frontman with a one on one of his own. Charging to the edge of the box before picking his moment to strike, the fierce shot was met by a powerful and brave save by Cook, standing up strongly to deny UCL once again.

 

If LSBU had ridden their luck before-hand, they were perhaps fortunate to benefit from their own slice as half-time approached. As mentioned, luck can make all the difference but good teams make their own luck and it was with that luck that South Bank equalised. A corner from the left sailed across the six-yard box where it was only half-cleared. Connor Burrows managed to half control the ball before it was kicked of his toes. Matt Clarke on the edge of the box brought the ball back under control before moving it on to Weadock on his right. His first-time cross was only flicked on by Burrows but luckily behind him lurked Pol Basso-Pinol. There were claims that he was offside but before they came, he headed goal-wards over the keeper but the lack of power gave UCL a golden chance to clear. Bizarrely however, the UCL man on the line chose to stoop to head clear rather than the obvious option to boot it clear. His header could only fall as far as Burrows who had stayed up and volley home easily from six yards to give South Bank a crucial leveller.

 

Connor Burrows (L) scored a crucial equaliser for LSBU whilst keeper Joe Cook (R) made a number of vital saves

 

There is never a bad time to score in football, but there are most definitely better times than others to score. And with only a few minutes remaining in the half when you’re one-nil down is certainly one of the better times to score.

 

After a warning shot from LSBU substitute Ishmail sailed wide of the post. South Bank got their chance and they grabbed it. A throw in from the left was flicked into the path of Leyton by Darnell Depradine. He twisted and turned, trying to find a route further into the UCL penalty area. Unable to advance further, he laid the ball off to Ishmail. He took one step to his right before swinging a cross into the box where it was met by Depradine who thundered his header into the top corner and fired his team into the lead.

 

Darnell Depradine (center) scored the crucial winning goal with an excellent header

 

Being at your most vulnerable when you have just scored almost proved true for South Bank. Another poor clearance allowed UCL in again, initially one on one before being chased back by Baterip. It almost stalled the attack completely before the UCL forward shimmied his way into a shooting position and with his left foot, unleashed a snap shot that Cool did excellently to keep out given it travelled through the legs of Baterip.

 

South Bank finally began to settle on their lead and almost increased it soon after that chance. A free kick out on the left was whipped in by Ishmail and bounced all the way to the back post where Depradine nodded it back across goal, Leyton was waiting to pounce but the ball was whipped away from him at the crucial moment.

 

That chance wasn’t to prove costly though as the referee brought the curtain down on a brilliant and determined victory that could prove invaluable as the league comes towards its conclusion. Two points clear and with a game in hand on UCL mean the initiative is well and truly with South Bank in the run in. However, three games still remain and they will be wary of conceding any ground and giving any hope to those chasing as they remain in the pursuit of title glory.