Lowestoft Town 2 Whitton United 1 (AET)
Lowestoft Town lift the Suffolk Premier Cup for the twelfth time after beating a brave and hardworking Whitton United side 2-1 after extra time.
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Lowestoft Town: Jessup, Ainsley, Sowunmi, Haynes-Brown, Adam Smith, Marsden (Lee Smith 71 mins), Jarvis, Okay, Mason (Eagle 60 mins), Woods-Garness (Reed 97 mins), Bammant
Subs not used; Gaughran, Radomski
Whitton United: Jones, Sheppard, Mead (Nogueira 119 mins), Trevivian (Bevis 74 mins), Knott, Marjoram, Anton Clarke, Dye (Squibb 88 mins), Powell, Williams, Ethan Clarke
Subs not used; Copeland, Brittain
Prior to the match and for the duration of the game, a good bunch of Lowestoft Town fans situated themselves behind the goal and made a superb amount of noise with a number of songs for their side. While Ipswich Town starlet, Tyrone Mings was yet again in attendance to support his fellow team mate Sowunmi.
After a warm day there was a real nip in the air at Leiston Town’s Victory Road ground, as the match got underway on a very dry and tricky surface with the blues giving Marsden a start after impressing in a cameo role on Saturday.
The game was just five minutes old when Whitton had the first strike at goal with Powell sending in a shot from distance that bounced just in front of Jessup, forcing the Lowestoft keeper to turn it away.
However, even with Whitton challenging for everything, it was Lowestoft who were seeing the majority of the play early on and on fifteen minutes an Adam Smith corner was headed over by Bammant.
Bammant was already proving a handful for the Whitton rearguard as he found an overlapping Mason down the left and his centred ball picked out Woods-Garness but the strikers shot was right at Jones in the Whitton goal.
Lowestoft were starting to pick it up now but the game was still waiting to fully come to life with Whitton, as you’d expect, battling hard for everything and trying to keep it tight at the back. While Lowestoft were seeing a good level of possession but were lacking any real tempo in their build up play and were struggling to find quality on a dry surface that wasn’t helping either side.
Any joy that the blues were having was coming via Bammant and with the burly target man getting to the by-line and pulling a ball back to Woods-Garness on the penalty spot, it looked as if the deadlock would be broken but Woods-Garness blasted over when he should have at least found the target.
Ten minutes remained in what had been a fairly average first half of football, as Lowestoft continued to look like the side that would open the scoring if they could attach an end product to their play. A long ball forward by Ainsley was headed down and into the path of Jarvis by Bammant and with the midfielder hitting it cleanly first time, it was right at the keeper again, when a yard either side would have been the lead for the blues.
The first half was now drawing to a close and looking like being goalless heading into the break. It was a scoreline that Whitton, of the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division would have been happy with after battling for every ball against a side three levels higher than them. While Lowestoft would undoubtedly of hoped to have found more in their play and would be looking for improvements in the second half. However, with a minute of the half remaining, that all changed as Lowestoft took the lead. An Adam Smith free-kick was sent into the Whitton box from the right and with the keeper coming out and failing to get enough on his punched clearance, the ball fell nicely for Sowumni to tuck away from close range for 1-0 (44 mins).
Whitton in the whole had found it difficult to expose the Lowestoft defence in the first half but just before the break it appeared as though Williams had got clear but with him looking to head into the Lowestoft area, Haynes-Brown showed great strength and composure to win the ball brilliantly and clear the danger as Lowestoft headed into the break with a one goal lead.
Just a few minutes into the second half a flicked header by a deep lying Woods-Garness saw Bammant run onto the ball and towards the Whitton defence but keeper, Jones was switched on and was quick off his line to beat Bammant to the ball and clear the danger.
Bammant was continuing from where he had left off in the first half with impressive hold-up play and some fine headers and touches on the ball. Up to this point he had very much been the provider of the Lowestoft attempts but with him latching onto a dropping ball he unleashed a shot of his own, sending a well hit half-volley whistling past the base of the post. Lowestoft had the upper hand again as poor defending by Mead allowed a lurking Woods-Garness to get in behind but with his eyes lighting up from the angle, he lashed a swerving effort wide of the target.
At the other end Whitton were trying their hardest to find something special to open up Lowestoft, all without much joy though. That was until Ethan Clarke somehow got beyond three blue shirts on the left wing, before squaring a ball into the box but the ball was met by a blue shirt as a tracking back Jarvis cleared from his own area.
Fifteen minutes of the second half had now passed and after a bright start by Lowestoft the game started to become a little flat, with the blues holding their lead and Whitton needing to find a cutting edge to get back into the game.
The first change of the match came on the hour mark when Lowestoft withdraw Mason and looked to inject some fresh legs in the shape of Eagle.
Whitton were now looking as if the only way they could find a way back into the game was from a mistake or conjuring something from a dead ball situation. Then their opportunity duly arrived with Ethan Clarke getting clipped by Ainsley just inside the Lowestoft area and the referee Darren Stobbart pointing to the penalty spot. A tussle between Ainsley and Ethan Clarke shortly followed the decision and with Ethan Clarke taking an apparent swipe at Ainsley, the blues right back retaliated and was shown a yellow card for his troubles. It was a crucial opportunity for Whitton and an important part of the game as Powell spotted the ball and sent Jessup the wrong way to score and level the match up at 1-1 (63 mins).
The goal had forced Lowestoft to up their game and play with more urgency but the end product was still short of quality. The blues were either choosing to take one touch too many or seeing Woods-Garness try to spin in the box with the ball but finding himself heavily outnumbered in the Whitton penalty box. All of these attempts were proving fruitless for Lowestoft and it really needed someone to gamble or have a go from distance. One player who does like to have a go if the opportunity arises is Eagle and that’s what he did when an opening appeared in front of him and he sent a shot in from distance that stung the keepers hands and went behind for a corner. From the corner another fizzing Lowestoft effort came in on goal, this time from Marsden but it cleared the bar as Whitton continued to hang on.
Lowestoft made their second change of the match with less than twenty minutes remaining and with an off colour Marsden not having taken his chance to shine after being given a start; he was replaced by Lee Smith as the blues looked to avoid extra time. Whitton made a change of their own with Bevis replacing Trevivian but the game had now become very scrappy and had extra time written all over it.
Bammant was provider again as a Jarvis goal was ruled out for offside and the blues continued to press for a winner.
At the other end, a rare foray towards the Lowestoft area saw Williams latch onto a ball over the top for Whitton but with Sowunmi on his shoulder there was only one outcome as Whitton drew a blank again.
Finally and with just ten minutes left it looked as though Woods-Garness was going to race clear and grab the winner but with the striker timing his run perfectly to stay onside, the linesman thought otherwise and up went the flag, much to the frustration of the Lowestoft striker.
It was all one-way traffic with Lowestoft doing all of the pressing but Whitton to their credit were digging in and not making it easy for Lowestoft as the final five minutes of normal time arrived and the blues supporters behind the goal burst into song, to lift their side for a final push. Sowunmi heard the cries and with a sign of urgency in his play, he picked the ball up on the halfway line and burst forward before hitting a low shot that the keeper had to turn behind. Then moments later it was a lovely threaded ball by Eagle that saw Woods-Garness in a dangerous area but Knott got back at him brilliantly to wrap his foot around the ball and make a saving tackle.
Two minutes remained and with Whitton already looking set for extra time they made their second change with Squibb coming on for Dye. Five minutes of stoppage time were then indicated and during that time Lowestoft suffered a double frustration. Firstly with the keeper coming to the edge of the area and Bammant standing a few yards away, the ball was struck into the back of Bammant but with his back to play the referee somehow felt able to make a call on what had happened and very harshly booked Bammant. Then with the seconds ticking away the blues won a free-kick in a dangerous position and with Lee Smith forcing the keeper to parry his effort, Sowunmi was just short of being able to get on the end of the rebound to steer it home for a late winner.
Shortly after the whistle sounded and it was another thirty minutes to be played on a hard and draining surface.
The first period of extra time started with Lowestoft's real shining light on the night, Bammant battling to work a chance in the area from a very tough angle but the keeper made himself big and the effort went behind for a corner.
It was groundhog day again with Whitton having to defend heavily and it has to be said, defending stoutly with the blues trying to turn possession into a breakthrough but coming up against a green and white stripped brick wall.
Lowestoft had one more role of the dice remaining as Reed rose from the substitutes bench and replaced Woods-Garness in attack alongside Bammant.
The tale for most of the night for Lowestoft was efforts going straight at the opposing keeper and with Eagle sitting one up for Bammant, that trend continued as another effort went right at Jones in the Whitton goal.
It had been noticeable that the gap between Bammant and Woods-Garness had been rather large at times and that both strikers were in effect playing as individuals instead of as a partnership. However, with the introduction of Reed that was no longer the case as the gap immediately reduced and the two forwards formed a much closer partnership.
Whitton kept defending and Lowestoft kept pressing but a goal wasn't really looking like coming. That was until Adam Smith sent in a ball from the left that was too close to the keeper but with the keeper seemingly claiming it on the deck, the ball somehow squirmed under him and the worst possible player was lurking from a Whitton point of view, as Reed got a toe to the ball ahead of the defender and stabbed it into the net for 2-1 (103 mins).
Whitton looked to hit back straight away as they forced a corner at the other end and Powell saw his header just clear the Lowestoft crossbar by a matter of inches, as the first period of extra time came to a close.
The second period of extra time saw Reed really step it up with his usual top class movement and work rate, giving a now tiring Whitton defence an almost impossible challenge to try and keep him and Lowestoft out.
Jones had to get behind a Reed effort in the Whitton goal as the striker spun before unleashing a shot but the tempo was up and Lowestoft were getting in behind the Whitton defence at an alarming rate.
Legs were tiring and even more space was opening up for the blues as Reed got to the by-line and pulled the ball back for Bammant but the impressive and battle-worn Knott was there to block the shot for his side.
The minutes were really running out for Whitton now and with them understandably throwing more forward, the gaps became even bigger for Lowestoft. A lifted ball forward by Trevivian gave a brief moment of respite for Whitton and looked like it would be perfectly weighted for Powell to run onto but Jessup was alert and out to claim the ball ahead of Powell.
Three minutes remained and with Lowestoft getting in behind every time they came forward and from both flanks, Eagle pulled a ball back to Bammant but right back, Sheppard connected with the big striker only for worthy claims for a penalty falling on deaf ears. As if that wasn't bad enough, what followed was in truth a complete and utter disgrace. The referee walked over to the felled Bammant and when the striker got to his feet he incredibly showed him his second yellow of the night and sent him off. The second booking was indicated as being for diving which quite frankly left everyone speechless and completely stunned by not just a poor decision but a totally outrageous one! Bammant had been superb all night and had done nothing all evening that warranted a booking, yet he found himself trudging towards the dressing room and facing an unjustified suspension.
Whitton made their final substitution in the last minute but the game was won and on the sound of the final whistle the Lowestoft faithful broke into song and top of their hymn sheet was "There's only one Micky Chapman". As Lowestoft had won the Suffolk Premier Cup for the twelfth time in their history.
It had been far from a classic and the pitch certainly proved to be a bit of a leveller. Lowestoft Town had enjoyed more time and space on the ball than they're used to but found it difficult at times to sustain any sort of tempo or flow to their game. While the Whitton United players had been a real credit to their club by not only making the final but also in the way they had battled throughout and at times defended stoutly for large spells of the game.
Adam Smith played a part in both of the goals for Lowestoft. While Reed made a big difference when coming on and inserting a quality of movement and work rate that has become accustom with this top class striker.
However, the Man of the Match was a very simply choice and a richly deserved one. Having put in just short of 120 minutes worth of holding the ball up effectively, heading with authority and showing some lovely touches to be the creator and executor of nearly all of the Lowestoft chances, my Man of the Match was the superb Shaun Bammant.
An honour that was richly deserved and one that was only tainted by the referee's ineptitude.
It was the twelfth time that Lowestoft Town had lifted the Suffolk Premier Cup and was a fantastic cherry on the top of a phenomenal season, having secured their safety in Conference football last weekend. It was also a very apt moment when the retiring Micky Chapman was ushered forward by his team and fellow manager to lift the cup, much to the delight of the Lowestoft supporters.
Lowestoft Town now play their penultimate game of the season, when they make the 610 mile round trip to Colwyn Bay on Saturday with the blues hoping to keep their unbeaten run of eleven games going.