Leiston 0 Lowestoft Town 1
On a boggy pitch Lowestoft put in another solid and disciplined team performance to seal a 1-0 win at Leiston.
Leiston: Gay, Saker, Brothers, Head, Jefford, Simmons (Henry 63 mins), Boardley, Heath, Nwachuku (Ottley-Gooch 46 mins), Parker (Crisp 46 mins), Francis
Subs; Tann, Crisp, Henry, Ottley-Gooch, Rossis
Lowestoft Town: Jones, Jack Ainsley, Williams, Gaughran, Stuart Ainsley, Henderson, Jarvis, Okay, Eagle, Osei (Smith 84 mins), Reed (Frew 37 mins)
Subs; Smith, Gleeson, Frew, Bailey, Haizel
On a boggy pitch Lowestoft put in another solid and disciplined team performance to seal the league double over Suffolk rivals Leiston with a 1-0 win and a deserved three points.
The starting eleven for Lowestoft was unchanged from the previous game with the only changes coming on the bench, as Gleeson passed a fitness test and Frew returned from his loan spell.
The match got underway on a boggy pitch that was clearly going to cut up from the off and make slick football difficult. The first ten minutes saw the home side with the majority of possession but apart from an early run by Francis, which was shut off by a great tackle from Williams, Leiston didn't threaten the Lowestoft goal.
It was from a Leiston corner from which the first chance of the game came, however it was a chance for Lowestoft. After winning the ball from the Leiston corner, Lowestoft counter attacked at pace and with Gaughran bearing down on the keeper in lots of space, it looked like Lowestoft would take the lead but the Lowestoft centre-half and captain dragged his effort woefully wide of the target.
The missed chance was soon forgotten a couple of minutes later, when what appeared to be a mishit shot by Eagle found Reed inside the area and with a clinical finish with the outside of his boot, Lowestoft took a 1-0 lead (15 mins).
The goal lifted Lowestoft, who then shifted up a gear and started to win the second balls and as a result obtained more of a grip on the game with increased possession. Osei was looking menacing and Reed in particular was showing a great work rate, proving a handful for the Leiston defence.
Okay brought a ball down well in the area and touched in Osei, as a second goal looked on for Lowestoft but with no power in his effort, the shot was easily dealt with by Leiston keeper Gay.
Stuart Ainsley was lucky not to see yellow when making a late tackle on the half hour mark but it showed the determination that Lowestoft were playing with, in effectively closing Leiston down.
Simmons had made a couple of runs in from the right flank for Leiston with the ball at his feet but the Lowestoft defensive unit were looking resolute and as a team Lowestoft were looking more effective than Leiston with their possession.
After going over on his ankle slightly earlier in the game, Lowestoft were dealt another injury blow as Reed went to ground and was gingerly helped off the pitch and replaced by Frew. The movement and strength that Reed had shown up front had been one of the highlights of the half but with first half stoppage time approaching, Lowestoft continued to press.
As half time arrived Leiston in truth had not really done enough to test Jones in goal and had found it very difficult to get beyond a solid Lowestoft defence. Both full backs were looking solid and the central pairing of Gaughran and Williams was yet again looking impenetrable, with Williams in particular winning everything that he challenged for right across the back line.
For the start of the second half Leiston made two changes, as Ottley-Gooch and Crisp replaced Nwachuku and Parker.
The half was barely a few minutes old when Lowestoft nearly doubled their lead but with Osei seeming to have bent a tremendous effort into the top corner, Leiston keeper Gay produced a remarkable save to get a fingertip to it and touch it onto the woodwork. It was the keepers who were in the spotlight at the start of the second half, as the focus of attention shifted to Jones in the Lowestoft goal. After coming out to try and shut off the danger, Jones was left exposed out towards the touchline and with Ottley-Gooch robbing the ball off him, Leiston looked to have the goal at their mercy but somehow Lowestoft managed to clear the danger.
The pitch was now becoming increasingly difficult to control the ball on but Lowestoft were being fired on by their fans, who were making plenty of noise behind the goal.
A Jack Ainsley booking for a late tackle on Francis resulted in a free-kick which found Jefford at the far post but with Jones positioned well it was a simple claim for him.
There was a short and funny interlude fifteen minutes into the second half as the linesman indicated that his boot had come apart and with tape in hand from the bench, Lowestoft midfielder Okay carried out repairs, much to the laughter of those watching.
The second half hadn't really got going as Leiston made their third and final change with Henry replacing Simmons. The introduction of Henry seemed to spurn Leiston on a bit and they were now seeing more possession and showing more threat than they had in the first half. A long ball into the box landed nicely for Francis but his drilled shot from six yards out was right at Jones, as Lowestoft started to find it hard to push out of their own half.
Heath then lifted a good ball forward to release Henry and with him in on goal, Gaughran did well to tussle with him but Jones had to come out and made a strong save at the players feet.
The Lowestoft defence and keeper had been asked more this half but had shown why they've kept so many clean sheets this season and as the final ten minutes of the game approached, Lowestoft rolled up their sleeves again and started to push Leiston back into their own half.
Lowestoft were now closing Leiston down and applying a bit of pressure of their own, as they looked to see the game out and take the points back to the Crown Meadow. Adam Smith was introduced for Osei as the game started to come to a close.
The game was now deep into stoppage time and even though they hadn't quite done enough to merit an equaliser, Leiston were guilty of missing a golden opportunity to snatch one right at the death. In what was practically the last kick of the game, Henry did well in the right corner and from the edge of the box he set it up lovely for Ottley-Gooch right in front of goal but from just a few yards out he missed an absolute sitter. The final whistle shortly followed and Lowestoft had earned all three points with a performance that merited it. Leiston had chances, especially right at the death but overall Lowestoft were organised, hard working and very solid throughout.
It was another game in which the team showed quality throughout. Eagle still managed to show some good creativity and skill on a tricky surface, Henderson showed sparks of getting back to his normal self and before getting injured, Reed was looking sharp, strong and alert up front.
Where the real brilliance came though was in a solid defence, which stepped up and won practically everything that was put in front of them. The Ainsley brothers at full-back complimented another outstanding central defensive performance from Gaughran and Williams. Gaughran was not only solid at the back but again showed an attacking threat to his game. However for me the Man of the Match had to be the powerhouse performance put in by Curtley Williams. It was a commanding display of defending and I can't remember a single challenge in which he came off second best.
Lowestoft Town will next be in action tomorrow (Saturday) when they welcome Canvey Island to the Crown Meadow in a 3pm kick-off.