Lowestoft Town 0 Harrogate Town 0
Lowestoft Town and Harrogate Town battle out an entertaining goalless draw at the Crown Meadow.
Lowestoft Town: Jones, Ainsley, Gaughran, Haynes-Brown, Smith, Henderson, Okay, Jarvis, Eagle, Bammant (Hayles 74 mins), Louis
Subs not used; Radomski, Marsden, Hodd, Jessup
Harrogate Town: Barnes, Bloomer, Meynell, Lenighan, Heath, McGurk, Kerry, Kendall (Nowakowski 64 mins), Margetts (Swain 88 mins), Walshaw, Speight (Rowe 53 mins)
Subs not used; Franks, Crook
Lowestoft Town received a big boost going into the match with Gaughran making an unexpected return after last weekend's ankle injury. Other changes for the blues saw Smith come in at left back and Okay starting in place of the unavailable Fisk in midfield.
The tactics of the away team were clear from the off as Harrogate set up with an attacking formation, getting plenty of bodies forward and into the Lowestoft box.
Harrogate were passing the ball really well and were using the whole pitch to try and get an early advantage. That early advantage could and should have been taken by the away side when a low ball from the left by Speight presented itself to Margetts but with just the keeper to beat, he fired a very weak effort at Lowestoft keeper Jones.
It had been a dangerous looking start by Harrogate but with the fifteen minute mark arriving, Lowestoft had seemingly weathered the early storm and were now starting to find balls down the channels and were regularly picking out Bammant and Louis up top.
Louis is well known for his strength and shots on the turn and with him holding off the defence he was able to spin and get a shot away on the edge of the area, which the keeper had to react to in order to turn it over.
The first two bookings of the game came just before the twenty minute mark when Okay stretched for the ball and even though it was a foul, he harshly went into the referees book, shortly followed by Lenighan for his reaction following the foul. From the resulting free-kick, leading Harrogate scorer Walshaw stepped up and with Jones not grasping the effort, the Lowestoft keeper was spared his blushes as the following in player slotted the ball away, only to see an offside flag ruling it out.
The game was being played at a really high tempo with a number a tackles also going in but up to this point most of the second balls were being won by Harrogate and that was giving them a slight advantage.
Eagle was putting himself about all over the pitch and was really working hard for his team, and it was his involvement that led to the first really good effort of the game for Lowestoft. A break from deep saw Eagle bomb down the left and with him playing an excellent ball to locate Henderson centrally and in lots of space, Henderson hit a swerving and dipping shot from fully thirty yards that forced away keeper Barnes into action in order to keep the match goalless.
Moments later and with the thirty minute mark arriving, Eagle was involved in the build up play again, this time ending with Okay dragging a great effort just past the foot of the post.
Lowestoft had upped their game, were now winning the second balls and were enjoying a good spell of threatening football as Louis dispatched a stinging low effort at goal, that Barnes had to get down quickly to in the Harrogate goal to put it behind for a corner. From the resulting corner it looked as if Lowestoft had turned their advantage into a lead but somehow a Henderson effort was blocked on the line and Harrogate survived.
Ten minutes of the half remained and Harrogate were presented with a free-kick in a dangerous position but with Margetts stepping up to take it, the Lowestoft wall did its job and blocked the shot.
Bammant and Henderson were both yet again showing confidence in their play and with Henderson showing great work on the left to get to the by-line, he pulled the ball back and into the path of Bammant for what looked like a goal. However, yet another block close to the goal line denied Lowestoft and left them wondering what more they needed to do in order to get the lead.
It had a been cracking half of football and with practically the last kick of the half, Eagle had a great chance to break the deadlock but with the goal opening up for the winger, his effort was poor and weak, as an entertaining half was brought to a close.
The start of the second half was an exact replica of the first with Harrogate getting bodies forward and playing with a high tempo. The first change of the day came from the away bench as Rowe replaced Speight and moments later a corner found its way through on the deck to Margetts with only a mix of defence and Jones stopping Harrogate from taking the lead. This was then followed by a free header for Walshaw but his hands went to his head in disappointment after directing it wide.
Much like the first half though, Lowestoft eventually rode out the bustling start by Harrogate and were now starting to settle into the half.
Kendall was justifiably booked for Harrogate when pulling down Ainsley, who was looking to break away for Lowestoft as the blues upped their efforts. Eagle was fractionally short of getting on the end of a ball from the left as Lowestoft started to look the more likely to break the deadlock.
Harrogate were still a threatening looking side though and even though the second half hadn't reached the heights of the first, the final twenty minutes of the match arrived and it was looking like one goal would settle it.
Lowestoft made their first and only change of the match when the hard working Bammant was replaced by Hayles and Lowestoft re-shuffled to put Hayles right back, Ainsley right midfield and Henderson up top alongside the impressing Louis.
Neither keeper had been asked to perform any heroics this half but with Rowe getting down the left and coming inside, a bending shot headed towards the far top corner but Jones flew through the air in the Lowestoft goal to make a superb save.
As the final moments of the game started to approach a few handbags in the Lowestoft area finished with a number of players being booked, one of which was Gaughran. The game had become a little stop start now and with just five minutes remaining a goalless draw looked likely. That was until Harrogate carved out a chance with some quick passing on the edge of the Lowestoft area but with Walshaw getting a sight of goal, he sent a shot over the bar when he should have done better.
At the other end an Eagle shot was charged down and deflected behind as Lowestoft looked for something late in the game but every Lowestoft player and supporter were left enraged as the officials appeared to be the only ones in the ground who didn't see that it was a clear corner for Lowestoft!
Harrogate made their third and final change in the remaining minutes and as four further minutes of stoppage time ticked by, the final whistle went and both sides had to settle for a share of the spoils.
The game may have ended goalless but it had been a very entertaining, attacking and competitive game of football, that was a real advert for none league football.
For Lowestoft; Louis had stepped up another level in this game and had put in a good shift. While both Henderson and Eagle worked hard all game for their team and covered plenty of blades of grass during the match.
It was the fourth clean sheet in seven matches for Lowestoft though and even though Gaughran had yet again put in his customary strong and reliable performance, he was slightly surpassed today by my Man of the Match Curtis Haynes-Brown. He lost hardly any of his battles today and put in a very strong and watchful defensive display. He's grown with each game this season and certainly looks to be at his best when forming part of a central defensive pairing.
It's another point on the board for the blues, who will now face their first midweek away game of the season when travelling to Worcester City on Tuesday night.