Lowestoft Town 1 Stalybridge Celtic 1
Two strikes from distance result in a point a piece, as Lowestoft Town and Stalybridge Celtic draw 1-1 in a game that reflected the conditions.
Our Main Sponsors – Smith Bros Timber
Platinum Match Sponsors – Harrod UK
Silver Match Sponsors – Dingles
Ball-boys (sponsored by Greater Gabbard Offshore Winds Ltd) – Waveney Lions U12's
Lowestoft Town: Jones, Sowunmi, Gaughran, Haynes-Brown (Okay 52 mins), Adam Smith, Mason (Henderson 67 mins), Fisk, Jarvis, Eagle, Reed (Woods-Garness 84 mins), Bammant
Subs not used; Radomski, Jessup
Stalybridge Celtic: King, Wigley (Holsgrove 56 mins), Heath, Hughes, Galinski, Potts, McKenna, Kerr, Allen, Ennis (Chippendale 62 mins), Regan
Subs not used; Cadman, Staunton-Turner, Crowley
Prior to the match, Harrod UK had installed some new swanky goals for the club and these were christened in the first half by Adam Smith.
Going into the game; Lowestoft were still missing Lee Smith who was serving his final game in a three match suspension. Ainsley was also missing through suspension, having reached ten bookings for the season and both Crow and Marsden were still sidelined through injury.
Sowunmi shifted to a right-back role in place of Ainsley and Gleeson was named in the starting line-up having returned from suspension but after pulling up in the warm-up, he was replaced prior to kick-off with Haynes-Brown. The only other change saw the return of Okay, who took up a place on the bench.
The match got underway on a heavy pitch with Lowestoft having a strong crosswind behind them.
It was a good competitive start to the game with Lowestoft rushing the visitors and as a result they were picking up the early possession.
Reed as always was putting himself about early on and with him winning a free-kick, Adam Smith delivered and found Gaughran at the far post but the keeper, King was right on the post to claim with ten minutes gone. At the other end it was a free-kick to Stalybridge which saw their first sight of goal, with Ennis delivering the kick from the left and with the ball going into the box and deflecting nicely into the path of an unmarked McKenna, he blasted over from six yards. It was real yo-yo stuff, as the action then immediately switched to the other end and with Eagle being found with his back to goal, he touched it to Reed but his close range rocket at goal was turned over superbly by King in the visitors goal.
Both sides could have easily been leading early doors but it was the blues who were looking more menacing up top with both Reed and Bammant working the Stalybridge defence. It was following some good work and hold up play from Bammant that saw Lowestoft take the lead just before the twenty minute mark. The Ex-Dereham striker was bundled over for a free-kick and with the Eagle dead-ball delivery being cleared, it was met by a lurking Adam Smith twenty-five yards out, who's effort on the outside of his boot caught the wind perfectly to beat the keeper and find the top corner for 1-0 (18 mins).
Free-kicks were proving to be the theme of the game so far with both sides committing fouls in dangerous areas of the pitch. The kicks continued to come and with leading scorer Ennis behind one on the edge of the blues area for the visitors, he struck it with good authority but it was straight at Jones between the Lowestoft goalposts. A number of fouls were being committed and just before the half hour mark Potts faced up to Fisk, before Hughes then got involved for Stalybridge and shoved the blues midfielder to the floor. A little melee followed and with it finally settling down it looked pretty certain that Hughes would be in trouble for his shove but the referee did nothing except surprisingly shown the yellow card to Bammant, who must have got involved in the resulting melee.
Thirty minutes had gone and Lowestoft were winning their battles in all areas of the pitch with Stalybridge thankful of the keeper, to restrict Lowestoft to just the one goal lead.
Lowestoft continued to look the more threatening as Eagle played in Reed but his first touch let him down on this occasion and allowed Heath to sweep the danger up at the back for the visitors. Then a high foot on a busy looking Bammant saw Eagle send in a great free-kick that had King at full stretch to turn behind superbly in the Stalybridge goal.
Ten minutes of the half remained and with the Lowestoft midfield working hard and both Reed and Bammant not allowing the visiting defence a moments rest; the blues looked for a second as great work by Bammant teed up Jarvis to scuff an effort wide.
As the half started to come to a close, Stalybridge had a brief spell with the ball at their feet and were looking to expose the blues down the left flank but with the exception of some nice touches at times by Allen, the visitors had shown very little in the final third. There was time for both sides to score just before the break though; firstly with Potts having a close range effort deflected behind for the visitors and then Mason being fed in but with him driving into the space his end product was poor, as he snatched at his shot and missed the target when he should have done better.
The second half saw the visitors with the wind in their favour now and that was coupled with an early blow for Lowestoft as Haynes-Brown went down injured and had to be helped off the pitch. He was replaced by Okay who slotted in at right-back, allowing Sowunmi to move centrally at the back.
Stalybridge made their first change of the match when Holsgrove replaced Wigley but the second half had not got going at all and the only talking point was a bizarre booking for Adam Smith, when him and Allen aerially challenged for a ball and the referee seeing something that clearly nobody else had.
Just over sixty minutes had gone and the conditions were being reflected in the match, in a second half that was disjointed, scrappy and very ugly on the eye. A second change was made by the visitors as Chippendale replaced a somewhat ineffective Ennis and with neither side looking anything like scoring, a goal came out of the blue and unfortunately for Lowestoft it was an equaliser for Stalybridge. An unfortunate slip in the Lowestoft ranks allowed Regan to pick the ball up twenty-five yards out from goal and with him hitting it sweetly, it had Jones beaten and went in off the underside of the bar to level the match up at 1-1 (64 mins).
The goal briefly stung Lowestoft into action but it didn't last long and the game yet again descended into what had become a very drab half of football.
Mason had shown plenty of drive again but had lacked an end product for most of the game for the blues, as Lowestoft made their first tactical change of the game with Henderson replacing him.
A handful of away supporters were singing behind the goal but even their input couldn't lift the game with fifteen minutes remaining and Lowestoft really struggling to win the second balls now.
As the game reached the final stages Lowestoft introduced Woods-Garness for a tired looking Reed but it was the visitors who were pressing late on, as a ball right across the Lowestoft goalmouth left blue hearts in mouths.
It was however, Lowestoft who could have won it right at the end with Jarvis touching the ball into the path of Woods-Garness but with the striker opting for power, his effort fizzed over the bar when he possibly should have worked the keeper.
The final whistle shortly followed and three points would have been ideal for both sides but a point had favoured Lowestoft more than it had Stalybridge, as the blues maintained their gap between them and the sides currently in the relegation places.
The football match in truth all happened in the first half, as with the exception of the equalising goal from nowhere, the second half was a real non event with both sides struggling with the conditions.
Bammant had one of his best games in recent times with both him and Reed giving the visiting defence plenty to think about in the first half. Jarvis covered large areas of the pitch for the blues and put in a good midfield performance on an energy sapping pitch. However, the Man of the Match honours were given to Adam Smith by our platinum sponsors Harrod UK for his brilliant strike that looked like being enough to take the points, before Regan's fortuitous goal from distance.
Man of the Match - Adam Smith
After the match I caught up with Craig Fleming to discuss his move to Southampton and his time at Lowestoft, and this interview will be on the website tomorrow evening.
Lowestoft Town are next in action on Saturday when they hit the road again and head to North Ferriby United, who will be on a high having reached Wembley in the FA Trophy after seeing off Bath City in the semi-finals with a 4-2 win on penalties.