Lowestoft Town 2 County 2 ( Conference North) 14 March 2015
I am not sure quite what to say about this one!
A deeply depressing gloom hung over Crown Meadow, which was whipped constantly by something nasty originating from in the vicinity of Siberia, but not all the gloom was generated by the prevailing weather- the match, until the last 25 minutes, was something of a shocker too....little football of any great note, and not much in the way of incidents either. The one incident that did happen in the first half, might have been prevented had O`Halloran not elected to tackle Lee Smith as he drifted away from goal near the by-line on the break. It was not all that plain that the County man had managed to make contact actually, but that did not prevent Smith going down, or referee Chris Pollard from hurrying to point to the spot, to give our hosts the lead, which they held until deep into the second half in a thoroughly depressing game. With Jack Ryan on, and County going 4 at the back, things slowly improved and 2 goals from Spencer ( one a penalty)the other a super strike, looked to have snatched County the game, a situation that they arguably did not 100% deserve to be in. But....... that said.....deep into 3 minutes added time ,a late melee in the box saw Mr Pollard save the day for Town by again pointing to the spot teeing up a second penalty strike from Jack Ainsley, and thus snatching the game from County`s grasp, signalling yet another re-enactment of WW3 with a cast of hundreds.
I was angry at the way this one finished, but ....if I was disappointed by much of what went on previously, this disappointment was tempered by the knowledge of how the younger players shaped up on an otherwise best forgotten afternoon. With Jacobs incapacitated in a road accident, Alan Lord gave a debut to Development Squad youngster Wes Benjamin, and he did not disappoint. He understandably faded slightly late on, but overall can be proud of his first game in County colours. County`s back line also had Connor Hancock and Matthew Todd on board, and both played really well ( Connor`s subbing being tactical and nothing else I am guessing), but best of all was Charlie Russell who again gave us 90 odd minutes of hard graft- making a considerable assist for Spencer’s opening goal. I felt that to an extent the youngsters were let down by the more experienced players, particularly Wilkinson and Glover who were peripheral throughout the game- Glover topping a game long dialogue with the referee with a second yellow right at the death.
Back at 3 o`clock, despite the distinct chill in the air, something approaching optimism prevailed with yours truly , probably not entirely unrelated to the excellent sausage and chips followed by apple pie and coffee I had downed at various points inside the ground!
County had a relatively young side out, but they were all well rested having travelled overnight- after 6 hours on the Flyer I was envious! There was a decent crowd of not far short of 800 on site, most of these in the main stand, a structure said to be the oldest in England, as the teams came out.
Benjamin was soon in action as a combination of Adam Smith and Dean Mason set about trying to ruin his afternoon. With Lees and Hancock to his left however, young Wes did not look at all compromised, the early action ending with Smith lifting the ball out of play.
County`s immediate reply, started by a neat ball from Benjamin, and ushered on via a free kick for a foul on Glover, seemed to put keeper Ashley Jones in trouble , only for the liner`s flag to come to Town`s aid with Spencer darting clear.
The focus switched ends next as O`Halloran gifted possession to Jake Reed, who then proceeded to waste the gift, by failing to test Hurst with his subsequent effort........switched again with Benjamin exchanging passes with Spencer, and being unlucky to see Omar Sowunmi in position to block his run as he surged into the box.... and once more as somehow Hurst managed to claw a header from Reed out at the last gasp!
It went on......Mason `s run cut short by Benjamin`s precise tackle.....Spencer onto a through ball but dished by a combination of Jones and Sowunmi........and Mason again stopped, this time by Hancock who was continuing in the same vein he left off last time out.
It was an odd game really....end to end , but not greatly exciting, both teams were rather overdoing the long punts high into the box, which with Town having beanpole Sowunmi in the centre of the defence, seemed decidedly counter- productive, from County`s view point.
Despite the action listed above, there seemed little to get too concerned about as Lee Smith worked his way clear down the right taking O`Halloran with him as he entered the box. The danger did not look that pressing, as the forward was drifting slightly away from goal, when he went to ground, under pressure from the ex Irish International. I could not see from my vantage point , but the referee took no time at all with his decision- pointing to the spot and sorting a card for O`Halloran in record time. The kick was put away with consummate ease by Jack Ainsley, and Lowestoft had the lead!
If Erkan Okay, Adam Smith, Mason and Reed were offering some threat to County`s peace of mind, there was also a constant flow of free kicks coming Town`s way, and these were ramping up the angst for the white shirted blues, one such ending with Sowunmi and O`Halloran going head to head in the box- the ball somehow staying out, with bodies darting around and going to ground to order.
Not much was going right for County going forward up to and including the 30th minute........a neat through ball from Russell, and an involuntary header by Glover missing out narrowly. We needed to see some well constructed moves being put together, but these were like snowflakes in the Sahara, as two more probing balls from young Charlie went begging. This again disappointed me, and I was still allowing myself to mull over the possibly doubtful thought that “ the Town defence looks nothing special, and a bit suspect”, when I looked to my left to see Hurst just manage to tip a shot from Lee Smith out. That was a shock and more so as Smith had been allowed through with no one on him.
Hancock did well to stop the increasingly lively Okay, with half time approaching, but any relief from this was dissipated rapidly when County won a couple of free kicks ,which they promptly wasted.
Throw into the mix another Town free kick.......a header by Ross Jarvis , and a late /late save from Hurst to keep it out, and I was glad to hear the referee`s whistle signal half time.
My hopes for `something better’, received early encouragement after the break as a shot from Spencer had keeper Jones scrambling to keep it out! Sowunmi cut off Wilkinson`s pass aimed at Spencer next, but twice following this action, Lees had to be on his toes to deny Town on the break.
At one down, County needed to ensure that Lowestoft did not get another, and thus put the game out of our reach, and it was wince inducing to see Sowunmi an inch or two from reaching Ainsley`s latest free kick.
The 54th minute saw Lordy make a change, replacing Hancock with Ryan, which added power up front whilst switching to 4 at the back, and the four were put under immediate pressure with Town piling forward in numbers buoyed by a series of cheep free kicks and several corners, that saw Hurst tip one after another over the bar.
This went on for a while, but just after the hour we were offered some encouragement as Russell sent Ryan darting clear. He skied his shot over the top when at the by-line, but it was a start! And......a repeat action saw County go one better and level the scores! Again Russell was at the hub, winning the ball before threading it through into the box where Spencer awaited it like a spider does the fly! Unfortunately Sowunmi was in the vicinity also, and when Spencer stooped to put head to ball, the defender swung his boot making contact with Spencer`s person. Spencer went down.......the referee was suitably impressed......and County had a penalty, which Spencer despatched with ease beyond Jones` dive, bringing the scores level at 1-1.
Hurst continued to have work to do after the equalising goal, mainly from a stream of free kicks, by no means all of which seemed valid. Thankfully the County keeper did his job well, which is more than can be said for the liner on my side and the referee who both mentally `logged off’ as in rapid succession Ryan went down in the box under pressure from Fisk, and twice was stopped when darting clear by a tug of the shirt. All this happened under the liner`s nose, but his flag stayed down!
Woods-Garness, and Lee Smith both went close after this—Hurst doing particularly well to deny the latter as a corner pinged in.
We were within reach of the end now.......County had been improving slightly, and looking more coordinated going forward, but it was still a bit of a surprise, a pleasant one, but a surprise none the less, when County took the lead.
Lees won possession and played a neat ball inside from the right which looked to have Ryan`s name etched on it, but a brilliantly executed dummy by him ushered the ball on to Spencer who promptly looked up before sending a terrific shot into the net off the underside of the bar. The County contingent went AS.....there was barely a minute of normal time left to play, and even with the 3 minutes added on to this the game surely was County`s now!
Well.....................it should have been, but with Town increasingly desperate ....a melee formed in the box.....bodies falling about all over the place. It was impossible to say just what happened to whom, a situation simply made for the RADA graduates in the Town ranks, but Mr Pollard knew and pointed to the spot in double quick time.
The mother of all fracas followed swiftly on from this, after which Ainsley put his second kick away comfortably.
Glover saw a second yellow....walked.....sundry others got booked including Lordy I think, and it was a relief to eventually head off back to the Flyer, and head home, at the end.
Any disappointment over the result, and some of the football, is tempered to a decent degree by the play of Todd, Hancock, Russell and Benjamin, who clearly point the way to the future. For now the future is Macc on Tuesday at their place in the semi final of the Cheshire Premier Cup, so let’s get behind whatever team Lordy puts out, and give it our best shot!
County line up;
Hurst, Benjamin, Lees, Hancock( Ryan 54), O`Halloran, Todd, Moses, Russell, Glover, Spencer( Lofthouse 91), Wilkinson.
Subs not used:
Ormson, Sharp, Noblett.
Lowestoft Town line up:
Jones, Ainsley, A Smith( Bammant 90), Fisk, Sowumni, Gaughran, L Smith, Jarvis, Reed, Okay( Woods-Garness 72), Mason( Henderson 55).
Subs not used:
Attendance : 769