Lancing starting XI :
Taylor Seymour, James Beresford, Alex Bygraves, Liam Hendy, George Fenton, Tom Caplin, Mike Williamson, James Rhodes, Lew Finney ( capt.), Kane Louis, Brad Santos
Matt Berridge, Mo Juwara, Omar Bukleb, Conrad Honoure, Mitch Hewens.
Lancing returned to League action after two successive and successful cup ties with a home entertaining visitors Loxwood whose keeper was former Lancing favourite Tyler D’Cruz, transferred from Saltdean. It was also Ultras Day which saw our teenage supporters present in good numbers and good voice.
The game proved to be a perfect illustration of the contrasting styles of play when a side near the top come up against a side struggling at the bottom but also proof that no matter how much possession and dominance one side exercises over their opposition, games are won by goals. Lancing enjoyed much greater possession, played out from the back through Alex Bygraves and Liam Henry. They spent long periods in the opposition half switching the ball from defence to midfield, wide to James Beresford and Brad Santos. Both were getting to the byeline, with support from Finney, Louis, Rhodes and Caplin. But Loxwood defended deep, frequently with eight players in or around the penalty area. Lancing could not find the killer pass to break down a well organised defence. Tyler had very few saves to make but did respond well when a Lancing free kick was flicked goal-wards. A series of three shots in quick succession from inside the Loxwood penalty area were all blocked. But Loxwood breaking quickly on the counter attack looked dangerous until they hit the brick wall that was Alex Bygraves. Twice Loxwood came close to a goal. Right back Jason Dawson set up a great chance for Sam Karl but he miskicked from a couple of yards. Dawson came close himself. Taylor had to leave his area to head clear a long punt. The clearance fell kindly to Dawson who seized the opportunity to direct the ball towards the empty net. Alex Bygraves read the danger and was quickly across to head the ball to safety. In between there was a controversial incident. Louis was shaping up for a shot from around the penalty spot and appeared to have his legs taken away. The referee saw this as a dive (simulation) and awarded a yellow card. Most of us were baffled as to why a player about to deliver a shot from close range would go down, unless fouled.
The first half ended with Brad Santos making a series of runs along the right flank leaving defenders struggling to stay with him. But solid defence by Loxwood managed to prevent his crosses reaching a Lancing player in a position to get a clear shot in. Brad and and George Fenton tried their luck but both saw powerful drives go narrowly wide.
Half time saw a change of referee. Martyn Milligan had alerted both managers to the fact that he was struggling with a muscle strain so was unable to continue.
The second half continued in much the same vein as the first. Lancing enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but Loxwood continued to sit deep and defend in numbers. This tactic almost paid dividends when a long Loxwood free kick was met by a Loxwood player who put in a fierce drive on the turn which thundered against the underside of the cross bar before being put behind for a corner.
Buoyed by this, Loxwood were hitting the ball forward down the middle whenever they won possession. But they could get no change out of Bygraves and Hendy. James Beresford finished a good run with a shot which Tyler pushed behind. Lancing’s patience in waiting for a break through paid off. Lew’s corner was aimed for the near post. Kane Louis was on hand and either got the finishing touch himself or caused the Loxwood defender to concede an own goal .You can guess what Kane said when we asked him after the game if he was claiming the goal !!!!
With 15 minutes to go Mo Juwara replaced Brad Santos. One speedy winger for another. Taylor had to get down quickly to make a save and was injured in the process but able to recover. Further substitutions followed for the last 5 minutes of normal time ( followed by 7 minutes of added time with Tom Caplin and James Rhodes being replaced by Mitch Hewens and Conrad Honoure. Loxwood had not given up hope of an equaliser and with a couple of minutes left Al Bygraves was forced into committing a foul on the half way line to stop a breakaway for which he earned a yellow card.
Loxwood clearly had a game plan which nearly paid off. They restricted Lancing to a solitary goal with a disciplined defensive formation and could easily have had two or three goals themselves. Lancing were the superior footballing team and did not panic when the goals did not come. The three points were well deserved but this game was something of a learning curve when facing a team lower down the table desperate for at least a point.
Two strong candidates for MOM but Alex Bygraves just edged out Mike Williamson who both made a number of vital tackles.
Man of the Match: Alex Bygraves
Thank-you to everyone that attended for our ‘Ultra’s Day’ – a great atmosphere at Culver Road on Saturday afternoon.