Lowestoft Town 1 Hendon 0
Lowestoft give it their all in finally breaking down a resilient nine men Hendon rearguard to win 1-0 and secure home advantage in the play-offs.
Lowestoft Town: Reynolds, Saker, Williams, Crane, A Smith, L Smith, Fisk, Okay (Mitchell 63 mins), Francis (Benjamin 68 mins), Henderson (Dawkin 86 mins), Frew. Subs; Mitchell, Eagle, Benjamin, Dawkin, Frew
Hendon: Laurencin, Hall, Cousins (Bennett 76 mins), Flegg, Fisher, Maclaren, Cracknell, O'Leary, Smith (McCann 68 mins), Diedhiou, Connors. Subs; McCann, Bennett, Hyatt, Lewis#
After a gruelling five away games in ten days, Lowestoft gave it their all in finally breaking down a resilient nine men Hendon rearguard to win 1-0 and secure home advantage in the play-offs by finishing second in the league.
Going into the match the Lowestoft squad was tired and battle weary but were boosted by the return of Crane in defence and the fresh legged Francis on the left wing. In a late change to the submitted team sheet and following a problem in the warm-up, Frew came in to the starting eleven in place of Araba.
The match got underway to the sounds of supportive roars and singing from the stand and behind the goal, as Lowestoft looked for the three points which would secure second place.
The first few minutes passed without any real note but Lowestoft then started to get the upper hand and in the tenth minute Henderson burst forward from midfield in a Lowestoft attack but his shot got a wicked deflection and lopped wide of the Hendon goal.
Lowestoft were already starting to set their stall out in the Hendon half and with an Adam Smith cross coming in from the right, the Hendon keeper Laurencin, who was commanding his box well early on, had to twice punch the ball away off the line for his side.
Lowestoft were looking sharp and full of creativity and following a spilling move forward, a great cross from the left by Francis picked out Frew who was steaming in on goal but his bullet header flew back off the crossbar, as Lowestoft came close to opening the scoring.
Lowestoft were getting on top now and following a lovely flowing move from defence to the front, Francis whipped a great ball across the box and with Frew nearly heading in on the line, only to see it blocked, Lee Smith fizzed a shot in from the follow up but it was cleared off the line.
There had been no feistiness in the game coming up to twenty minute mark but following a Fisk tackle on a Hendon player, Maclaren reacted badly to the tackle on his teammate and after a brief pause the referee sent him for an early bath with a straight red card (19 mins), reducing Hendon to ten men. Only another seven minutes passed before things got even worse for Hendon, as following an earlier yellow card, Fisher fouled Okay and was also sent from the field of play with his second booking and a red card, now reducing Hendon to nine men.
Lowestoft seemed a bit distracted by the goings on but after clearing their heads and focusing on the game again, they applied themselves in trying to take advantage of the situation.
Francis was a much welcomed set of fresh legs on the pitch and with him skinning the right back Hall and Lowestoft in great numbers in the Hendon box, it broke to Saker who drilled a shot in on goal which came straight back off the post.
Adam Smith and Francis were having a field day down the left side for Lowestoft and with Francis full of running and energy, a goal looked imminent for Lowestoft but even with a Henderson header bending wide, Lowestoft couldn't get the breakthrough.
Thirty minutes had gone and it was all Lowestoft with Saker and Lee Smith adding to the joy down the left flank, by equally matching it down the right flank for the Trawlerboys.
Okay and Fisk were adequately keeping the pressure on in the middle of the pitch and were trying to orchestrate breaking down Hendon, who had understandably now resorted to putting most of their players behind the ball.
Lowestoft continued to press for the lead before halftime but with a Francis free-kick drilled right at the keeper and a Frew header proving just too high for him to connect with properly, Lowestoft had to settle for a goalless scoreline at halftime.
The second half started with Hendon yet again sitting back and Lowestoft now taking up a very attacking shape with players further forward and almost playing a 3-5-2 formation.
Lowestoft knew that the game was there if they could breakdown the Hendon rearguard and with Francis yet again beating Hall, he was pulled down in the area but the referee astonishingly waved away what appeared to be stonewall claims for a penalty.
Lowestoft we really in the hunt now and a goal looked certain but with Lee Smith sending a great cross in from the left, Frew fluffed a great chance in front of goal. It was really looking like being one of those days, as moments later a ball was cut back to Lee Smith in a dangerous position but he also let the chance go begging with a poor execution of the chance.
It was certainly one-way traffic and that traffic was riddled with blue, as Williams brought the ball forward from defence and with the play finally ending up at the feet of Lee Smith, he drilled his shot through a crowded area, only to see the solid Laurencin stop his effort.
Mitchell was then introduced as Lowestoft ensured fresh legs maintained the pressure on a deep sitting nine men of Hendon. The game was camped in the Hendon half and Lowestoft were weighing up attack after attack to try and get the all important breakthrough but Hendon were not giving up easily and their impressive keeper Laurencin was continuing to command his area and claim the ball well.
It was starting to look like Lowestoft would have nothing to show for their efforts and advantage in the game but with Adam Smith lifting one into the box from the middle, Frew headed past the advancing keeper to send Lowestoft ahead 1-0 (66 mins). Frew had been guilty of missing a golden chance early on but he made no mistake with this one and gave Lowestoft an all important lead.
Francis had caused the Hendon defence plenty of issues in the first half but with him being less effective in this half, Benjamin was introduced (68 mins), as Lowestoft went in search of a second to cement the result and second place in the league.
Lowestoft continued to push for a second and all Hendon could do was hold on and hope for a breakaway or a goal from nothing, as they replenished with Bennett replacing Cousins (76 mins).
It was looking like Lowestoft had done enough and with Dawkin replacing Henderson (86 mins) the minutes started to tick away but at 1-0 the nerves were creeping in amongst the fans, hoping that no late dramas would spoil a job well done.
Lowestoft nearly put the game to bed in the dying minutes with a Dawkin cross finding Lee Smith but with a poor connection on the ball it rolled into the keepers clutches.
Nerves however turned to joy as the minutes spilled away and on the final whistle the Lowestoft players had capped a magnificent season long effort and a testing final few week to get the win and secure home advantage by finishing second in the league.
Lowestoft dominated this match from start to finish and a mixture of missed opportunities and a Hendon rearguard looked like denying Lowestoft the much needed win. However, Lowestoft stuck to the task and kept going at the Hendon defence, finally getting the deserved reward.
The first half saw Lowestoft control the play but the second half saw them camped in the Hendon half with Williams and Crane both starting the play from the back and ensuring Lowestoft kept the pressure on. Okay, Fisk and Mitchell (when introduced) kept a firm handle on midfield, while Lee Smith, Adam Smith and Saker delivered the final balls. A fresh and buoyant looking Francis gave Hendon plenty to think about and even though he missed a great chance, Frew took his goal well and also had several great touches to bring others into the game.
When it comes to the Man of the Match though, I'm going to do something that I've not done all season and simply give the award to the whole team. As a team they've had a really testing few weeks, cumulating in five away games in ten days prior to today's game. The players have had to endure this very testing schedule while also holding down full time jobs and having families. Therefore I simply have to name the whole team as my Men of the Match, for doing the club and the supporters proud. You're all winners lads and have filled Lowestoft Football Club with pride.
This season has already been another fantastic season but it's not over yet and we all need to go again as one on Wednesday, for the play-off semi-final at home to East Thurrock.
Promotion is in touching distance but we need to continue to stand alongside the players with our support to achieve this!