Ruthless Radcliffe Punish Loose Lions

Despite a second half rally, and an excellent goal on debut for Benni Smales Braithwaite, the Lions were unable to recover from conceding two in the first 15 minutes, writes Ivor Timmis.

The Lions came into the match with no fewer than three new signings: the experienced Jack Higgins took the place of Courtney Meppen-Walters, ineligible against his parent club, while Scott Bakkor and Benni Smales-Braithwaite lined up alongside Kallan Murphy. Lewis Gardner also came in for his full debut, replacing injured skipper, George Smith.

The Lions got off to the worst possible start with Kwame Boateng conceding a cheap penalty near the byline after being tricked by Jude Oyibo.

Luca Navarro planted the penalty emphatically into the roof of the net. On 14 minutes worse was to follow when Navarro got on the end of a superb inswinging free kick to nod home at the near post.

Paul Phillips considered both goals to be defensive errors.

The Lions were wasteful in possession, rarely stringing even two passes together, and offered no threat apart from a few corners. It was a disjointed and disappointing first half.

The second half did not start well either, Cam Mason being forced into an excellent one v one save to keep the Lions alive.

On 54 minutes Callum Chippendale was replaced by Osebi Abadaki who played wide right. Around the hour mark the Lions began to rally, winning more challenges, keeping possession better and pushing Radcliffe back.

However, it was still something of a surprise when Abadaki rounded his full back and put in a great low cross which Benni Smales Braithwaite neatly controlled and smashed in at the near post.

The Lions, back in the game, now began to apply pressure forcing a succession of corners and of free kicks around the box.

Spencer Harris replaced Gardner on 83 minutes with the Lions switching to a back three allowing Harris to play midfield.

In a final roll of the dice, Adam Haw replaced Ross Daly on 90 minutes but as the Lions pressed forward a defensive error left Radcliffe 3 v 1 against Mason and Ewan Bange’s calm finish ended the Lions’ hopes.

The defeat put a serious dent in the Lions’ play off hopes, but Paul Phillips stressed that there are still 30 points to play for and a determination in the dressing room to turn things around.

With Meppen-Walters back next week, Lewis Whitham and Smith likely to be back in the frame soon, Harris gaining match fitness, and new signings bedding in, it is too soon to write off the Lions’ hopes, but a quick return to winning ways is imperative.

Guiseley 1-3 Radcliffe| Saturday 25th February 2023 | Nethermoor

Attendance: 521

Team: 1. Cam Mason, 2. Kwame Boateng, 3. Lewis Gardner (83′ Harris), 4. Ross Daly (90′ Haw), 5. Jameel Ible, 6. Jack Higgins, 7. Callum Chippendale (54′ Abadaki), 8. Leigh Whelan, 9. Scott Bakkor, 10. Kallan Murphy and 11. Benni Smales-Braithwaite.

Subs: 12. Spencer Harris, 13. Hagie Damba (GK), 14. Adam Haw, 15. Osebi Abadaki and 16. Mark Lees.

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