Bradford Park Avenue 1 Lowestoft Town 1
By Terry Bullen
Woods-Garness scores with the last kick of the game, deep into stoppage time to grab a point for Lowestoft Town against ten men Bradford Park Avenue.
Just a brief report this weekend, as I was not in full reporting duties (enjoying my birthday haha)
Lowestoft Team: Jones, Ainsley, Sowunmi, Gaughran, Adam Smith (Radomski 83 mins), Mason (Henderson 69 mins), Fisk, Jarvis, Eagle, Reed (Woods-Garness 79 mins), Bammant
Subs not used; Jessup, Davis
Lowestoft went into the game still missing Gleeson (one match suspension), Lee Smith (2nd match of his 3 match suspension), Crow (shoulder), Haynes-Brown (could return next weekend), Okay (personal reasons) and Marsden (ankle). They did however receive a boost with Adam Smith returning from injury and starting the match at left back, allowing Eagle to return to his more accustomed left wing position.
On a very poor, divot ridden pitch that was energy sapping for both sets of players, an ugly game of football got underway on a bitterly cold day at the Horsfall Stadium.
The worst start possible was dealt to Lowestoft with the game just two minutes old and the blues defence guilty of being static again, allowing Patterson to give the host an early 1-0 lead from close range (2 mins).
There was already a bit of niggle creeping into the game with both sides desperate for the points and certainly not wanting to taste defeat. An early coming together saw both Jarvis and Price go into the referees book on what looked like being a busy day for the man in black.
The hosts looked much sharper and stronger on the ball than Lowestoft and with the blues winning hardly any of the second balls, Bradford looked to extend their lead even further early on.
On the twenty minute mark the first big decision of the game was made by the referee but with Price having already been booked, his clattering tackle on Adam Smith left the referee with no option but to show him a second card and send him off, reducing Bradford to ten.
As the half went on the pitch wasn't conducive to anything that resembled football from either side but even with one man less, it was Bradford who were coping better and carrying the only threat with the blues very much looking second best in all areas of the pitch.
There were a couple of occasions when the hosts could have extended their lead with Chilaka in particular looking a threat and at times a handful for the Lowestoft defence. However, Bradford couldn't make their dominance of the first half count, but with Lowestoft showing nothing in an attacking sense, the home side looked comfortable with their 1-0 lead at the break.
More was needed from Lowestoft in the second half and on a pitch that excused a long ball style of play, the blues tried to play more of their football on the deck. It was difficult to control at times or to pick the ideal pass but they gave it a go and it resulted in them controlling a large majority of the second half. Mason was showing good drive while Reed was his usual tenacious self up top, trying to make something happen.
It was much better from Lowestoft and with the passing came a good level of tempo that had the home side spending long spells in their own half. For all their possession and control though, Lowestoft were struggling to find an end product but in a rare opening, Reed could and should have drawn the blues level but lifted his effort over the bar from inside the box.
Bradford hadn't got anywhere near the Lowestoft goal this half, which was due not only to the improvement from Lowestoft but also some better defending, with Gaughran in particular putting in a stand-out effort at the back.
Chilaka was the only real shining light for Bradford in a game of football which on the whole was still a poor match to behold. Bradford had looked more of a threat when creating chances though and in their only real sight of the Lowestoft goal in the second half, Chilaka should have doubled The Avenue's lead but his unchallenged header from six yards out was right at Jones.
Lowestoft made their first change of the match with the introduction of Henderson for Mason with just over twenty minutes remaining. However, the blues had now dropped off from their second half efforts up to this point and a further change saw Woods-Garness replace Reed with just over ten minutes remaining.
Still Lowestoft toiled but still the threat on the Bradford goal was minimal and even with Radomski replacing the returning and now shattered Adam Smith, it was looking as if the blues were going down to a disappointing defeat.
However, with four minutes of stoppage time being indicated and the game into the fourth minute of that time; it was time for Lowestoft to play their 'get out of jail free' card. In his second big decision of the game, the referee made a debatable decision in giving Lowestoft a free-kick out on the left flank. The free-kick was taken by Ainsley and with Bradford still aggrieved by the decision and briefly shutting off, Lowestoft remained sharp and with Eagle getting a touch to steer the free-kick into the path of Woods-Garness close in, the strikers effort went in off the foot of the post and Lowestoft had snatched an unlikely 1-1 draw with the very last kick off the game (90+ mins).
The home side and their supporters were left incensed by the officials decision but it was disappointing to see that frustration come out in the form of a small contingent of the home support casting some very disappointing and nasty abuse towards some of the travelling Lowestoft fans; leaving a bitter aftertaste at the final whistle.
It wasn't a pretty game and Lowestoft in truth were somewhat fortunate to have got away with a point, but it was a point that may well end up being their biggest and most important point this season.
The main threat for Lowestoft came through the drive and persistence of Mason and the tenacious efforts yet again of Reed. However, even with their efforts the only shot on target all game by Lowestoft was the winning strike by Woods-Garness. With that in mind and for keeping things very tight at the back in a much improved and tiring second half, against the persistent threat of Chilaka; my Man of the Match is Sam Gaughran.
After a number of weekends on the road already in 2015, Lowestoft Town return to the Crown Meadow next Saturday when another big game awaits against Stalybridge Celtic.
Come on you blues!!