Lowestoft Town 2 Stockport County 2
Lowestoft Town put in a superb first half but the second half is more of an even affair, as a late goal for both sides ends in a 2-2 draw.
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Lowestoft Town: Jones, Ainsley, Sowunmi, Gaughran, Adam Smith (Bammant 89 mins), Lee Smith, Okay (Woods-Garness 72 mins), Fisk, Jarvis, Mason (Henderson 58 mins), Reed
Subs not used; Radomski, Jessup
Stockport County: Hurst, Benjamin, Todd, Lees, Hancock (Ryan 52 mins), O'Halloran, Moses, Russell, Glover, Spencer (Lofthouse 90 mins), Wilkinson
Subs not used; Sharp, Noblett, Ormson
It was a match that had a grandstand finish, contained three penalties, a super strike and a red card; to leave spectators certainly getting their monies worth.
Lowestoft Town came into the match off the back of reaching the Suffolk Premier Cup final in midweek and were missing Eagle who had picked up a knee injury from the game. He joined Crow and Haynes-Brown on the injury list, while Ainsley switched to right back and Mason replaced Eagle.
The match got underway with Lowestoft shaping up with a flat back four and a flooded midfield, leaving Reed as the lone striker up top. While Stockport were sticking to the 5-3-2 formation that had seen them win their last two matches.
It was a very scrappy start to the match and it wasn't until the tenth minute that anything of note happened; when an Adam Smith corner was met by Sowunmi but his goal-bound header was turned behind by Hurst.
The set up in formations for both sides was making it difficult for either side to find any space in the attacking third but it was the blues who had made the better start.
That was until just after the fifteen minute mark, when a misplaced pass by Lee Smith allowed the visitors to breakaway and outnumber the blues at the back. However with Stockport looking to open Lowestoft up, Okay firstly made a good challenge before Sowunmi followed this with a superb tackle to deny Spencer and deal with the threat.
Putting that brief moment aside, Jarvis had now visibly taken control of the game and Mason was looking dangerous in what had been a good opening for the blues. That early control of the game then saw the blues take the lead, as Okay touched the ball to Jarvis and he in turn sent a lovely ball over the top to release Reed. O'Halloran tried his best to stick with Reed but with the striker running onto the ball and into the box, O'Halloran could only bundle him to the floor for a penalty and a yellow card. The last person you want to be facing from the spot is the ever reliable Ainsley and with him converting yet again it was 1-0 to Lowestoft (18 mins).
Lowestoft continued to control the game really well and were looking solid from the back right through to the front as the half hour mark approached. The five man midfield for the blues was seeing them dominate the middle third, while lone striker Reed was up against a five man Stockport defence but was working so hard and really making his presence felt.
A perfect free-kick delivery by Adam Smith appeared to have given Lowestoft a great chance to double their lead but with three blue shirts trying to get on the end, neither could get enough purchase or direction on the ball to take advantage.
It was all looking very good for the hosts with every blue shirt playing their part and Jarvis and Reed in particular putting in an immense showing. The only down side on the performance had been the unusually off colour passing of Lee Smith, who had given the ball away on too many occasions.
Five minutes of the half remained and Stockport had shown very little but this was mainly down to the quality of the Lowestoft performance and even when Stockport did get anything forward, Sowunmi was connecting with and clearing anything that came his way.
Nobody could have argued if the blues had of gone into the break with a bigger lead and if not for Hurst in the Stockport goal, that would have been the case. As an Adam Smith free-kick was expertly delivered from the right and a looping header by Jarvis had to be turned over at the last minute by Hurst.
The second half saw Stockport make changes early on, as Ryan replaced Hancock and they shifted from five at the back to a 4-3-1-2 formation. Lowestoft made their first change moments later with Henderson replacing Mason.
The deliveries from dead balls had been of a high standard so far by Adam Smith and with him trying an effort at goal on this occasion, Hurst attempted to catch but could only fumble the effort over the bar. The resulting corner by Adam Smith saw Hurst called upon again, as he turned the ball over from under the bar.
In truth though, the second half wasn't living up to the first and even though Lowestoft were still looking solid, they were not carrying the presence of the first forty-five.
The away side were seeing a bit more possession since their shift in formation and with twenty minutes of the second half on the clock, a slight bit of fortune saw them draw level.
A ball coming into the Lowestoft box saw Spencer stooping to get onto the end of it but with Fisk rightfully going for the ball at the same time, the striker connected with the Lowestoft midfielders boot and the referee awarded a relatively soft looking penalty for the visitors. Spencer got to his feet and stood over the ball, before tucking away the spot kick and levelling things up at 1-1 (65 mins).
The equalising goal resulted in the game opening up more, with Lowestoft looking to get straight back onto the front foot but the visitors also now looking threatening on the ball.
Lowestoft no doubt felt that they could get the win though, as Woods-Garness appeared from the bench to replace Okay, in a move that saw Lee Smith moved into a central position alongside Jarvis and Fisk.
Both goalkeepers were looking fairly redundant though, as the match started to reach its close and the game looked scrappy with neither side looking able of breaking each other down now.
A point a piece was probably a fair return for both sides and it was looking that way until Spencer and Stockport drove a dagger through the hearts of Lowestoft with just two minutes remaining. Spencer had picked the ball up in what didn't seem a dangerous position at the time but from just under twenty-five yards out he preceded to bend a magnificent effort towards the far right corner that had Jones beaten in the Lowestoft goal and went in off the underside of the bar for 2-1 (88 mins). Lowestoft had been left stunned as both sides made changes with stoppage time being signalled.
It was looking like being heartbreak for the blues but with stoppage time nearly up they kept showing great character in not wanting to accept defeat and in the third minute of stoppage time they got their chance to get the least they deserved from the match.
Reed, who had shielded the ball so brilliantly all game, was doing the same again and with him holding the ball up in the Stockport box before trying to go past his man, he was bundled over yet again for another Lowestoft penalty. It's almost inevitable what the outcome is when Ainsley steps up to the spot but there was real pressure on this kick. However, Ainsley seems to revel in pressure situations and stroked the penalty into the bottom right corner for his eleventh penalty and thirteenth goal of the season to make it 2-2 (90+ mins).
Stockport were clearly frustrated by the very late leveller and ignited a melee between both sets of players, ending with Reed going into the book for Lowestoft and Glover also getting booked but immediately following it with some choice words to receive two bookings in quick succession and a sending off. The game eventually re-started but as soon as it did the final whistle was sounded and both sides had finished with a point.
After their first half showing, Lowestoft will probably feel a little disappointed in not having taken all three points. However, credit has to go to Stockport when eventually changing from a formation that wasn't working to something that levelled the game up. The superb strike late on by Spencer was worthy of winning any game but a defeat for Lowestoft would have been very unjust and a draw in the end was a fair reflection.
Credit has to go to Ainsley for yet again showing ice cold nerves to convert both penalties. While Adam Smith covered well in defence but also put in a number of high quality dead ball deliveries throughout. Sowunmi made a fantastic tackle early in the match and won pretty much everything he contested in the air and on the deck; resulting in him being named man of the match and presented champagne by our platinum match sponsors.
However, for me there were two players who pipped him in competing for the man of the match honours. There was Jarvis, who yet again put in an industrious performance, displaying what a great footballing brain he has with some clever touches, perfectly weighted passes and a desire to also get forward. Then there was Reed, who in the first half in particular was up against a five man defence but as the lone striker his tenacious work rate and shielding of the ball was superb. On top of this, those qualities in his play earned the two spot kicks for Lowestoft to give Ainsley the opportunity to score. Therefore my Man of the Match was a close run thing but was Jake Reed.
Highlights of the match can be seen via YouTube, by clicking here https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-RyTH0ZGH-c
Lowestoft Town are next in action on Saturday, when they are at home again and will face Guiseley.
I can't finish this report without mentioning the large number of Stockport fans who made the long journey to the game and those of them who joined Lowestoft fans for a get together and a number of drinks prior to and after the game. That's what non-league football is all about!!