Leiston 0 Lowestoft Town 1
Woods-Garness gets a 79th minute winner as Lowestoft Town beat ten men Leiston 1-0, to go through to the Suffolk Premier Cup Final
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Leiston: Gay, Saker, Brothers, Cunningham (Merritt 82 mins), Jefford, Mitchell, Winter, Heath, Mayhew (Nicholls 89 mins), Ottley-Gooch, Francis
Subs not used; Bullard, Bell, Rossis
Lowestoft Town: Jessup, Marsden, Ainsley, Sowunmi, Eagle, Woods-Garness (Mason 89 mins), Fisk, Okay, Radomski, Henderson, Bammant
Subs not used; Jarvis, Reed, Davis
Leiston came into the game still heavily in the frame for a play-off place in the Ryman League but still fielded a very strong side that was only missing Bullard, who took up position on the bench. While Lowestoft Town are looking for more league points to ensure their safety and Conference football next season and as a result they rested a few first team players but still fielded a very strong side.
Lowestoft lined up at kick-off in a 4-3-2-1 formation that saw Okay, Jarvis and Radomski form a midfield trio, Woods-Garness and Henderson on the flanks and Bammant as the lone forward.
It was a pretty slow start to the game on a cold evening at Walmer Road and it wasn't until the fourteenth minute that the first chance came and it was for Leiston, as Winter fed in Mayhew but Jessup was alert to save with his legs in the Lowestoft goal.
Except for the earlier chance for Leiston, a relatively even game meandered along with most of the game being contained to the middle of the pitch. Henderson was the one player who was really trying to open things up for Lowestoft but the Leiston defence was looking solid as the thirty minute mark arrived.
Lowestoft were finding it hard to break down a Leiston defence that was being well marshalled by Jefford and Mitchell. However, at the other end Leiston were having some joy against the Lowestoft backline and with a chipped ball sending Mayhew in on goal again, he lifted his effort over Jessup but was denied by Ainsley, who had got back to clear off the line for Lowestoft.
The Trawlerboys were finding it hard to penetrate the Leiston rearguard and were now resorting to long range efforts, as Radomski found space to hit a shot from range but it was always going wide with ten minutes of the half remaining. The build-up play by Lowestoft was looking okay but in the final third they continued to come up against a Leiston brick wall.
A Fisk booking for Lowestoft looked like it would bring the half to a close but not before the resulting free-kick was delivery expertly by dead ball specialist Cunningham, resulting in Jefford sending a downward header towards goal but it was right at the feet of Jessup and came to nothing as the halftime whistle sounded shortly afterwards.
The second half started with Lowestoft forcing a couple of early corners but the quality in delivery was poor, as a failure to clear the first man on both occasions saw them go to waste.
Lowestoft were seeing some good early possession though and with a ball coming in from the left, they forced their first real chance of the game as Woods-Garness forced a great save from Gay, who turned his effort over the bar from close range.
Then came a big moment in the game for both teams and a moment that saw Ex-Lowestoft boy, Mitchell lose his head and put his team in a difficult position by getting himself sent off. Mitchell had gone in with a high foot in the Lowestoft area and in the resulting melee he swung a punch at Ainsley but even though he didn't connect the intent was clear and the referee took little time in sending him off with fifty-seven minutes on the clock. Following the sending off Lowestoft gained some momentum in their play but as the seventy minute mark arrived the game had distinctly gone off the boil again and was already looking like it had extra-time written all over it.
Eagle was trying to get further forward now with Lowestoft having the one man advantage but even with him cutting in of the left flank, his effort on goal was weak and failed to trouble the keeper.
Leiston were now pinning their hopes on getting something from a mistake or breakaway and with an unusually sloppy looking Sowunmi giving the ball away, Mayhew was allowed to shape for a shot at goal but his low, placed effort went past the far post when he should of done better.
At times Lowestoft were looking a little guilty of not trying their luck from distance but this wasn't the case for Radomski, who after trying one from distance in the first half, let fly again but nobody was in the vicinity for Lowestoft to latch on the rebound off the Leiston keeper.
Henderson had been the one trying to force something from the left flank in the first half for Lowestoft but this half it was all about Woods-Garness on the right flank, who was looking sharper with every minute that passed. However, even with all of his effort and determination, Lowestoft were still finding it hard to break down the Leiston defence.
One man who looked like maybe finding the breakthrough was Radomski and with him tracking a ball to the far post, he let fly from ten yards out but Gay was equal to it in the Leiston goal and turned it over for a great save. The resulting corner then flashed across the Leiston goalmouth but nobody was at hand to get a crucial touch for Lowestoft, as extra-time loomed.
Extra-time wasn't going to be welcomed by either side but that concern vanished for the Trawlerboys when just before the eightieth minute, Eagle picked the ball up in the middle of the pitch and picked a lovely pass to release Woods-Garness in on goal. The Montserrat striker was then as cool as you like, in taking the pass in his stride and going past the keeper to roll the ball home and send Lowestoft 1-0 up (79 mins). It had been that sort of game, where a mistake or a great pass was going to present the winning chance and Lowestoft had taken it, leaving Leiston looking at the subs bench as they introduced Merritt for Cunningham.
Another lovely pass, this time lifted over the defence by Eagle, appeared to have put Woods-Garness in with a chance to finish the game but before the striker could settle Ottley-Gooch had got tight to him and cleared the danger for Leiston.
Lowestoft were now successfully keeping Leiston in their own half and with both sides making changes in the last minute, Lowestoft continued to see the game out to the final whistle and secured their place in the Suffolk Premier Cup Final. Their opponents will be Thurlow Nunn Premier Division side Whitton United, who defeated AFC Sudbury 3-2 in extra-time on Tuesday evening. A venue for the final is still to be announced.
This wasn't the greatest of games but it had been a professional display by Lowestoft, who never lost their patience and slowly made their extra man count late on to grab the winner.
Henderson tried to provide the impetus in the first half against a staunch Leiston defence. While Eagle did well in his left back roll, in pushing forward to ensure that Lowestoft retained most of the second half possession and also in providing a great pass to assist the winning goal.
Radomski was workmanlike throughout and did try his hand from distance on a few occasion and was unlucky not to score from his third attempt, with the keeper pulling off a great save.
However, my Man of the Match honours went to Woods-Garness. Not just for the way he calmly took the winning goal but in the way that he provided drive and a real thirst to win the game, especially in the second half. He seemed to grow with every passing minute of the match and by the end was showing signs of getting that deadly sharpness back that had Ryman League defences running scared in past seasons.
Lowestoft Town now turn their attentions back to league action on Saturday, when Stockport County pitch up at the Crown Meadow and the blues look to move a step further towards safety.