Trailing 4-1 to a young and fast-paced Charity XI at New River Sport & Fitness Centre in Tottenham, the veterans produced a stirring comeback in the last half-an-hour to run out 5-4 winners.
Defender Brian Statham was the unlikely match-winner in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd while his centre-back partner Stuart Nethercott was also on the scoresheet for the first time this season. Goalkeeper Gareth Howells pulled off a magnificent save in the closing stages to keep his side in front – a fine contribution that proved as valuable as a goal at the other end.
The Charity XI burst out of the traps in the sunshine and hit the post with less than a minute gone but the Legends’ experience soon told as they began to get a foothold in the game and went close on a couple of occasions, first with a 40-yard Mark Gower lob that dipped just off target and then when Mark Falco’s (pictured, below) effort was blocked on the edge of the box.
Justin Edinburgh at left-back and the midfield duo of David Kerslake and Kevin Watson helped to keep the Legends ticking over nicely but it was the Charity XI who took the lead on 22 minutes as Michael Barton’s low drive brushed the fingertips of keeper Howells and trickled into the bottom corner.
Robert Russell made it 2-0 four minutes later in a real blow for the Legends but Gower pulled one back on 34 minutes to keep his side in with a shout, cutting into the area from the left side and curling beyond the goalkeeper.
Any hopes that the Legends had of winning the contest seemed lost, though, when Billy Bavin made it 3-1 four minutes after half-time and Russell finished off a fast-paced counter-attack to further stretch his side’s lead 10 minutes later.
But what followed left the Charity XI stunned and the supporters in the stands cheering louder with every goal!
Substitute Micky Jarrett converted Gower’s cut-back to reduce the arrears on 62 minutes with Nethercott, who had stayed up following a corner routine seconds earlier, steering a downward header inside the keeper’s right-hand post three minutes later to make it 4-3.
The defender, sensing the comeback was on, didn’t celebrate – instead he signalled for his team-mates to grab the ball from the back of the net and ushered everyone back into position to continue chasing the game.
The Legends’ efforts paid off swiftly as Jarrett beat the advancing keeper to a ball over the top and clipped it over him to equalise on 67 minutes.
And the remarkable turnaround was completed six minutes later when Gower’s shot from the left angle hit the near post and Statham was on hand to drill into the far corner from the rebound.
Reeling, the Charity XI went on the offensive and they almost found an equaliser on 76 minutes, only for keeper Howells to make a brilliant save on his line to keep out a powerful close-range header.
That was the last clear-cut chance of the game, with the Legends keeping possession well in the closing stages to preserve their 100 per cent record in 2016 – a run that had looked in real jeopardy a short while earlier.