Billed as the highest profile game in their illustrious history, Långholmen delivered a stellar second half performance to beat highflying Enskede at Kärrtorps IP. The stripes were staring down the barrel at 2-4, but turned things around with a sensational fight back that stunned the visitors; before knocking them out on penalties.
In fact, the match was book-ended by penalty kicks since the handicap system in the Stockholm cup granted LFC two freebees at the start of the match. Captain Harkness and the resurgent Kenny both confidently dispatched their bonuses to give the stripes a 2-0 advantage without a second on the clock; for a bizarre game that turned up 12 penalties in total, this was a sign of things to come.
You would have won a lot of money betting on a Långholmen victory in this one, and Enskede showed everyone exactly why by dominating the first half with a clinical display of controlled possession, power and pace. They had dangerous players all over the park, putting on a master class of one and two touch football that surely impressed any neutral. The Stripes tactic to try and contain the game lasted about 25 minutes before a lucky break in midfield caught too many LFC players ahead of the ball. Enskede switched play, and after a sublime first touch their striker burst through to cut the lead to 2-1.
From then on it seemed like the writing was on the wall for Långholmen who were always on the defensive against the league 2 leaders. By pressing high up the pitch they forced a couple of defensive errors and ruthlessly punished the Stripes to lead 2-3 at half time. And it could have been worse; the visitors missing a penalty of their own after keeper Kelly was adjudged to have flattened the number 15 with a late challenge.
People talk a lot about the Långholmen spirit – a dizzy combination of pride, passion and bloody mindedness that is an integral part of this clubs DNA. Even after going 2-4 down shortly after the break the lads never stopped believing that they could get something out of the game. They never stopped talking; never stopped fighting and nobody went missing in the face of adversity.
When Flavio picked up the ball just inside his own half and set off down the right, few watching could have imagined what the next 30 minutes had in store. That languid running style (a signature so easy on the eye) carried him to the edge of the box, before he dropped a shoulder and ghosted past a couple of defenders to hit the byline and put in a vicious cross. A hapless defender stuck out an arm and it was another spot kick. Up stepped Harkness; bang. 3-4 and the comeback had begun.
The first rule of street fighting is never taking your eyes off your opponent, and Enskede had just blinked. The words “no respect” boomed across the pitch and Långholmen started to win the battle from then on; aggressive and dogged in a blitz defence that took Enskede by surprise and turned the tide of the tie in an instant.
Midfield General Mattias Larsson intercepted a loose pass out of defense just five minutes later, running a line that opened space for himself and others. A perfectly weighted inside pass put a hungry Colm Kenny through on goal and he gobbled up the opportunity to pull the Stripes level 4-4.
But make no mistake; this was a very very good Enskede side. Unbeaten in 2011, and sitting pretty at the top of division 2. It took a couple of smart saves from Kelly to keep parity as the visitors snapped back into life, forcing LFC onto the back foot again, dominating territory and possession. But what happened next will be reconstructed with salt and peppershakers in the Southside for many years to come.
Defending stoutly on the edge of our own box, the ball was cleared to Harkness who found Larsson around the corner. The General charged into space, sliding the ball centrally to Kenny who in turn clipped it first time out wide to Sammba. The boy Baydi held off two defenders, shielding possession really well before checking inside and floating an impossibly good diagonal ball through the eye of a needle to Chris Allen who had sprinted the length of the pitch to meet it. The ball came into Chris at head height and sandwiched between two defenders he bought the ball under his spell with a magic touch on his chest and deftly chipped the keeper to send the stripes players, fans and bench bananas. If Carlsberg did counter attacking goals…
There was still 15 minutes to go.
The lads held on with everything they had; Paul Sullivan and Otis Burris in particular were rocks out there and Andy Mac was probably the best defender on the field. But of course there was a twist left in the tale, and fair play to Enskede, instead of giving up they forced an equalizer from a near post corner; taking the game into a frantic last 5 minutes. Tackles kept flying in; the players battered and exhausted. Half chances came and went at both ends before Frank Worthington Jnr blew his whistle to signal the end of an epic match 5-5; and the start of a cruel penalty contest to decide the result.
In the huddle, stripes keeper Danny Kelly revealed that he had never been in a shootout before so the players gave him some rather hastily constructed and contradictory advice on the finer points of saving pens. The reciprocal of Murphy’s Law suggesting that from this moment onwards he was destined to be the hero. And so it happened. The players put their hands up and the shoot out unfolded something like this:
PENALTY SHOOTOUT (Looking at the goal)
Enskede score RHS. Nice height for the keeper. Danny standing alert, but stationary in the middle of the goal.
Paul Sullivan wanders over and nonchalantly rolls the ball into the bottom left.
Enskede score LHS. Quite central. Danny still standing patiently in the middle of the goal.
Mattias Larsson trusts his technique and miss-hits one high to the left of the keeper; who is nowhere.
- At this point someone give Danny the message that he should try to save the penalties by diving towards the ball.
Enskede miss RHS. Great save by Danny. Strong arms deflecting the ball down into the ground and over the bar; cue circus clown chorus from the terraces.
Colm Kenny trundles up and completes a hatrick with a bobbler down the middle.
Enskede miss LHS. Blazed over the bar; probably still rising; more circus noises.
Otis Burris steps up and calmly sidefoots the ball into the goal in the manner of a man playing against his 15 month old son; in his living room with a rolled-up sock for a ball.
Langholmen win 9-7 on Penalties.
Glory for Långholmen and jubilant scenes as the players come to terms with what had just happened. A brief moment of clarity followed to shake the hands and clap the fans before more joy and demented sing song celebrations; including a rendition of Happy Birthday for Långholmen legend Robbie Graham. A night to remember for the self-proclaimed club historian and one that will live long in the memory of all the people who were there to witness the Stripes at their best.
Råsunda FC (div 7) wait in the Quarter Finals. Let it rain.
Kelly (GK); Karlsson (LB), Mcclelland (D), Ahmed (D), Phillips (RB), Sullivan (CM) Harkness© (CM), Larsson (CM), O’Sullivan (LM), Baydi (RM), Kenny (CF). Subs: Flavio (35), Gralla (60), Burris (35), Allen (30)
MOTM – Danny ‘Packie Bonner’ Kelly. Hero just for one day.
Ref Watch – Mr Worthington was (as always) hard and fair. 5/5.
QUOTES FROM THE FANS
“One of those matches you really wish all were at to see. Nuts. Great spirit from the Div4 lads. Great goals and a brilliant win to shut the opposition right up. Nice” – Pete Skinner
“Krian Belly and mate; boy did you miss a second half.” – Scot James
“It was like watching Liverpool – Alaves in the UEFA Cup final. Madness!” – Mats Gustavsson
“Långholmen som till 90% består av Engelsmän visade i andra halvlek Brittisk kämpaglöd då man gick från 2-4 till ledning 5-4.” – Enskede IK
“Fantastic character in the second half. Robbie’s shout when we were 4-3 down, ‘no respect’ was spot on.” – Deri Thomas
“I sat on the bus on the way home after the game and could only think of one thing….. Never under estimate the spirit & resolve that is Långholmen FC.” – Neil M Banks
“I’m looking forward to telling my son Danny Wille Otis Ahmed Andy Micha Colm Samba Chris Flavio Mattias Robbie Andy Billy Rodrigo Sewell that I was there!!” – Julian Sewell
Långholmen FC’s next league game of the season is on Sunday 15th May at Träkvistavallen against Ekerö IK. KO 19:00.
Hope to see more of you there for some top of the table fireworks.