Lowestoft Town 2 Hednesford Town 2
Lowestoft Town come back from two down and score in stoppage time to get a 2-2 draw against Hednesford Town, securing their place in the Conference.
Our Main Sponsors – Smith Bros Timber
Platinum Match Sponsor – SSE
Silver Match Sponsor – Andy and Stewart Sharman
Ball Sponsor – (In Memory of Brian "Ball Please" Ellis)
Ball-boys (sponsored by Greater Gabbard Offshore Winds Ltd) – Mutford & Wrentham Predators U12's
Mascots – Imogen and Harrison Jarvis
Lowestoft Town: Jessup, Ainsley, Sowunmi, Gaughran (Adam Smith 79 mins), Haynes-Brown, Henderson (Marsden 65 mins), Jarvis, Okay, Eagle (Bammant 65 mins), Woods-Garness, Reed
Subs not used; Mason, Jones
Hednesford Town: Crane, Hurst, Walker, Westwood, Tunnicliffe, Kerry, Osborne, Todd, Rushton, Thomas (Diggin 54 mins), Batchelor
Subs not used; Robinson
The visitors came into the game with just two named substitutes. While Lowestoft Town were missing the injured Fisk (calf), Crow (ankle) and Lee Smith (sickness), as they made three changes to the starting line-up from their victory at Leamington with Eagle, Henderson and Haynes-Brown coming in for Bammant, Lee Smith and Adam Smith.
The match got underway at a sunny but blustery Crown Meadow with the blues having a first half wind behind them.
It was a positive opening to the match by both sides but as the ten minute mark arrived it was the visitors who were starting to send a number of balls into the Lowestoft box, which were having to be defended well by the blues rearguard.
Just after the fifteen minute mark the game saw its first moment of goalmouth action, as an Ainsley corner found Gaughran at the far post for the blues but the keeper, Crane was positioned well as the downward header was stopped.
Rushton was looking like being the one who could provide an opening for Hednesford. While for the hosts it was Eagle and Woods-Garness who were carrying the impetus. However, the game was already following the template of recent home games with both defences on top and neither keeper looking like that would be having a busy afternoon.
It was therefore going to need something special to get the game going and just after the twenty minute mark it was Osborne who provide a touch of real magic to open the scoring for Hednesford. With Lowestoft giving away a free-kick on the halfway line, Osborne showed quick thinking to immediately place the ball and send a fantastically executed shot against the wind, that flew towards goal and over the top of the back peddling Jessup before nestling into the goal for 1-0 (24 mins). It was a truly incredible strike and one that deserved its plaudits, while unjustified comments were made from the sidelines about Jessup being off his line but you always see keepers off their line and instructing their side and defence when the opposition have a free-kick as far back as that (watch any football highlights show or videos). It was simply a fantastic and well taken strike!
The goal knocked the stuffing out of an already looking lacklustre Lowestoft side and as the half went on the blues regularly exhibited an inability to knit anything together and were really struggling to find their passes.
A moment of hope and a touch of class and drive from Jarvis looked like grabbing an equaliser for Lowestoft before the break, as the midfielder latched onto a dropping ball before unleashing a venomous shot at goal. Unfortunately for Lowestoft, Crane was equal to it in the visiting goal and saved brilliantly. However, with the rebound coming to Jarvis nicely it looked as if the keepers save would be in vein but with Jarvis connecting again, Crane saved again for a sensational double save to deny Jarvis and Lowestoft. Even from the resulting corner the short spell of pressure from Lowestoft looked like reaping rewards but with a Sowunmi header being cleared off the line by Osborne, it was a lead for Hednesford at the break.
It had been a half in which there had been no flow in the Lowestoft play for large spells and a real need for more belief and tempo in their play for the second half.
The second half started with a collision of heads between Haynes-Brown and Thomas and even though he initially continued, a groggy looking Thomas was replaced by Diggin early on.
For a moment it looked as if Lowestoft had increased their tempo with them shifting the ball nicely across the Hednesford area and an Eagle effort at goal being deflected behind for a corner. The corner then saw a Gaughran header cleared off the line but with the Hednesford keeper reacting quickly, Rushton got away down the left before squaring to Kerry in space and he ran onto the ball to slot home with ease for 2-0 (59 mins).
Frustration was now creeping into the blues play as Lowestoft made a double change with Marsden and Bammant replacing Henderson and Eagle in the wide areas with twenty-five minutes of the match remaining.
Marsden is never shy in wanting the ball and going forward and he was instantly involved in giving Lowestoft hope, as Okay won the ball and found Marsden on the right side of the area. The newly introduced substitute for the blues then showed good quality to beat his man and slide it to Woods-Garness, who got enough on the ball to steer it through a crowd and into the net for 2-1 (66 mins).
The introduction of Marsden had injected some urgency into the blues play and along with the energy and spark that was being provided by Woods-Garness, the blues could sense another turnaround.
Just over ten minutes remained and with the introduction of Adam Smith for Gaughran seeing Haynes-Brown shift into central defence, the blues smelt an equaliser. It didn't look like it was going to be a comeback this time though with Adam Smith going into the book and five minutes of stoppage time being entered. On top of this news was filtering through that Brackley Town had scored against Barrow, meaning that Lowestoft were not yet safe and did indeed need a point. The tension could be felt amongst supporters and the game was all but over. However, this Lowestoft side have shown time and time again that they just won't lay down, EVER and with the game nearly up it was Bammant who showed great strength and guile to manufacture a ball across to Reed for the striker to score late on again and make it 2-2 (90+ mins). Cue scenes of celebrations by the supporters and players alike. Celebrations that were very nearly dampened by Batchelor at the other end, with him coming millimetres away from grabbing a dramatic winner for Hendesford with practically the last kick of the game.
The whistle shortly sounded though and Lowestoft Town had secured safety and their place in Conference football next season. Chants and signing from the stand by a group of supporters after the final whistle were greeted by applause and appreciation from the team and management as everyone left the Crown Meadow with a smile on their faces.
There is no doubt that it had been a below par showing from the blues but yet again their fight and never-say-die attitude had seen them through. Eagle tried to introduce creativity in the first half but went missing second half. While Jarvis yet again put in a another consistent performance from box-to-box. The introduction of Marsden certainly added an urgency to play and showed again that he's a player who certainly has a lot to offer Lowestoft. However, after having a week away on international duty and playing ninety minutes last week against Leamington, a fresh looking Woods-Garness played with a level of commitment that saw him always wanting to challenge for headers and always wanting the ball. He linked well with Marsden and was regularly looking for gaps and the right positions to have an effect, seeing himself get on the score sheet as a result. Therefore my Man of the Match is Bradley Woods-Garness.
Lowestoft Town's place is now secure and will see the blues compete at Conference level next year.
The team do have one last lengthy away trip to do though with a staggering 610 mile round trip next weekend, when they're away to Colwyn Bay.
Before that they take on Whitton United in the Suffolk Premier Cup Final on Wednesday night. The game is being hosted by Leiston FC and Lowestoft will be hoping to add a silverware cherry to the top of their cake, after a season in which they've achieved their target of consolidation. However, Whitton United will prove no easy task whatsoever and your support as that twelfth man will be needed!
Come on you blue!