Hadleigh United 1 Lowestoft Town 3
Lowestoft Town booked their place in the Semi-Final of the Suffolk Premier Cup with a 3-1 victory at Hadleigh.
Hadleigh United: Heath, Brown, Downing, McLaughlin, Goldfinch, Donnelly, Layne, Canfer (Bailey 88 mins), McGlone, Chaplin, Josiah. Subs; Moyes, Barwick, Allen, Bailey, Blades
Lowestoft Town: Reynolds, Okay, Crane, Gaughran, Adam Smith, Cunningham (Henderson 20 mins), Fisk, Ainsley (Mitchell 81 mins), Eagle, Dawkin (Godbold 83 mins), Lee Smith. Subs; Mitchell, Defty, Henderson, Francis, Godbold
Hadleigh struggled to live with the quality and movement of Lowestoft, as The Trawlerboys booked their place in the semi-finals of the Suffolk Premier Cup with a 3-1 win.
A first half free-kick by Cunningham and a second half double by Henderson capped a great night for Lowestoft in which Jamie 'Godders' Godbold came off the bench to take his club appearances total to 499.
Lowestoft used their quality in depth within their squad to make a few changes for the match.
This allowed them to field a strong line-up but to also give some players that have recently returned from injury some much needed match time.
Ex Lowestoft player Lee McGlone lined up for the opposition, as the game got underway on a bitterly cold night with fog drifting in and out throughout the game.
Lee Smith and Dawkin were up front for Lowestoft, who took no time in setting up camp in the Hadleigh half. The quality was there from the off in Lowestoft's passing and movement and even though Hadleigh had a few brief moves towards the Lowestoft box, the large majority of the play was with Lowestoft, who were playing in red.
With 12 minutes on the clock Goldfinch fouled on the edge of the area for Hadleigh and with both Adam Smith and Danny Cunningham by the ball, Cunningham bent the free-kick into the bottom corner of the goal to give Lowestoft a perfect start; 1-0 (12 mins).
Lowestoft continued to keep their foot on the gas but did get a reminder from Hadleigh, with a free-kick sent into the Lowestoft box and with Lowestoft heads missing the ball it fell nicely to Layne, who connected well with a half volley but sent it right down the throat of Lowestoft keeper Reynolds.
Cunningham has had a frustrating time with injuries since joining the club and with just 20 minutes on the clock he was replaced by Henderson, after feeling tightness in his hamstring. Henderson was sent up top with Lee Smith, as Dawkin moved out to the right. Dawkin was having a lively start to the game and very much looks like a direct midfielder who loves running at defences.
Lowestoft nearly doubled their lead through Henderson, with a ball inside seeing Henderson sweetly spin off the defender and send a shot across the deck and fractionally wide of the far post.
Hadleigh were struggling to live with the quality of Lowestoft, however they were not shying away from it and kept working hard.
The attacks were building all the time by Lowestoft and with a lovely overlap by Adam Smith and a ball squared to a group of Lowestoft players on the edge of the box, a shot was sent crashing against the post with the follow up shot being saved by the keeper Heath, when maybe it should have really been put away by Lowestoft.
Hadleigh went straight up the other and nearly caught Lowestoft cold but with Layne getting the better of the defence he sent a fairly weak effort straight into the hands of Reynolds.
Hadleigh were starting to see a bit more of the ball but whenever they tried to move it about they were meet by the great tackling and closing down of Ainsley and Okay who looked focused and determined in their play.
Lee Smith was in a new role, after being asked to play up front but he looked like he was enjoying it, playing across the line really well, showing good movement and dropping off sometimes to lay some nice balls off.
With halftime approaching Lowestoft were looking comfortable to head in at the break with a lead. However, just minutes before the break Hadleigh put together their best football of the game, ending with it opening up for Chaplin on the edge of the box, who got his shot in on goal and with Reynolds only able to get a hand to it, his strike hit the back of the net to level things up at 1-1 (43 mins).
As the halftime whistle sounded the scoreline wasn't a true reflection of the game but that's cup football for you.
The second half started with Lowestoft on the front foot from the off. Lee Smith and Henderson exchanged a one two into the box and with Lee Smith looking to tuck the ball away the keeper made himself big to stop the shot with his leg.
Lee Smith was having an impressive game up front and the play between him and Henderson was reminiscent of when they both caused havoc against Hendon a few weeks ago. It was only looking like a matter of time before Lowestoft got in front again and that's exactly what followed in the 50th minute. Lee Smith got away from his man down the right and with the defender looking like he would cut out his ball across the box, he completely missed it, giving Henderson the simplest of chances at the far post, to tap it in for 2-1 (50 mins).
Lowestoft were worthy of their lead and with everyone getting some game time under the belts, it was shaping up to be a great night.
Fisk had recently been kept out of the starting XI by a rejuvenated Okay and appeared to be the only player who looked a little off the pace; giving away fouls and finally picking up a booking for his troubles.
Eagle was another player who has not featured much lately but was right on the money tonight and it was his great ball on the left which put Henderson in round the back and with the defence unable to handle him, he slotted the ball under the keeper and over the line to send Lowestoft 3-1 up and well on course for the semis (55 mins).
Henderson and Lowestoft were flying now and even as the fog started to come down again, Henderson stole the ball in midfield and went in search of his hatrick; driving forward and bustling his way into the box but seeing the keeper Heath just get to ground in time to stop the shot.
Hadleigh had to be applauded, as even with Lowestoft putting them under the cosh, they didn't give in but did come across a Lowestoft backline who stood up to them, kept tight on them and closed them down well.
As the game reached the final 20 minutes Hadleigh were left chasing shadows, as the Lowestoft fitness came shining through and a fourth goal looked on the cards.
Mitchell replaced Ainsley in the 81st minute and a couple of minutes later Godbold rose from the dugout to replace Dawkin and notch up his 499th appearance for Lowestoft.
Godbold was involved in midfield for the closing minutes and Hadleigh did make a late change themselves but the fourth goal didn't follow and as the whistle sounded the scoreline told the story, with Lowestoft easing through and getting ever closer to retaining the Suffolk Premier Cup.
There were solid performances all over the pitch tonight and it was an added bonus for players to get game time and come through the game unscathed.
Dawkin had a lively first half and Okay and Ainsley didn't allow Hadleigh any time on the ball.
There were three names however that shone out above the other great performances and they were Eagle, Henderson and Lee Smith. Eagle had an effective game down the left with some great deliveries and Henderson was a continual thorn in their side with his sharp skills and movement on the ball, adding to his brace of goals in the match. With the two goals it was very tempting to name Henderson as my Man of the Match but after putting in such a great performance up front and in a role he's not yet played for Lowestoft, my Man of the Match is Lee Smith, who excelled up top and was always involved from the first to the last minute of the match.
This was a great performance and great result, which no doubt will keep the confidence going as Lowestoft head into Saturday's fixture, turning their attentions back to the league and the visit of Lewes.
I hope to see many of you at the Crown Meadow on Saturday to cheer the lads on to victory!