Rouane's side beat Saltdean 3-0 on Saturday to secure first place in the SCFL Premier Division before the Christmas break.
- Fair (59')
- Finney (64', 73')
Lancers climb to the top of the tree for Christmas
Saltdean visited Culver Road for the second time this season but this time were under a new manager and featured just one player, Harry Shooman, from our 3-1 victory in the Sussex Senior Cup in September which was previous manager Tom Bett’s last game in charge. Former Shoreham Manager Brian O’Toole took the reins shortly afterwards and he would have been looking for some Christmas cheer as they sat in a disappointing 15th place before the game. For Lancing Conrad Honore replaced the suspended Mike Williamson in midfield and Mitch Bromage, newly signed from Broadbridge Heath, made his debut in goal.
Lancing were soon into their usual passing game with the ball being confidently played around at the back and in midfield but it was Saltdean who had the first chance of the match when a long throw from the far side fell to a Saltdean’s George Hayward who dragged his shot wide. Shortly afterwards a quick exchange of passes saw Tom Caplin draw a foul just outside of the area and Lew Finney’s subsequent free kick drew a good save from the Saltdean keeper Billy Cullings.
The game was fairly even in the opening thirty minutes with both sides defending well but a beautiful exchange of passes between Caplin and Finney just inside the Lancing half saw Lew release James Rhodes on the right. Rhodsie then drove back inside before feeding Lew again for his strike from 20 yards to go just over, a move that drew warm applause from the Culver Road crowd who have been used to seeing this type of flowing football all season.
Mid-way through the first half Conrad Honore played an exquisite defence splitting ball from his own half to the pacy Mo Juwara but keeper Cullings was alert to the danger and was quickly off his line to block Mo’s shot.
Saltdean ended the half strongly putting some dangerous looking crosses into the box and it was through a cross in the 39th minute that Saltdean had their best chance of the half, the subsequent shot from James Walters flying over the bar. Saltdean ended the half strongly with a couple of half chances failing to hit the target but the half time whistle game with the game delicately balanced at 0-0.
Mitch Hewens came on for Mo Juwara and half time and his direct running on the left and link up play with the always excellent James Beresford was causing Saltdean problems and pushing their full backs further into their own half. This slight change saw Lancing dominate the opening 15 minutes of the half and a needless foul on Lew Finney some 25 yards out after 59 minutes looked to be as a result of frustration on Saltdean’s part. Big Al Fair stepped up to take the free kick and it was an absolute beauty, flying into the top corner leaving Saltdean’s keeper motionless.
Lancing were imposing their game on Saltdean now and on 64 minutes Brad Santos picked the ball up just inside his own half and went on a fantastic run leaving the Saltdean midfield behind. A last gasp tackle from Saltdean defender Andy Pearson appeared to have got the ball but clearly also got Brad and, despite the protestations from the Saltdean players, the only real question for the referee was whether to give a free kick or a penalty and he opted for the former. Upon looking at the replays this seems to have been the right decision but it didn’t matter either way as Lew Finney’s subsequent free kick took a deflection off the wall and wrong footed the keeper to put Lancing 2-0 up.
Saltdean began to push forward a bit more without creating any clear-cut chances but this left space at the back which Lancing were able to exploit on the counter and on 73 minutes Conrad intercepted a Saltdean ball and set Mitch Hewens free on the left. Another jinking run and he lay the ball inside to Lew Finney 15 yards out. Lew still had plenty to do but a quick adjustment of his feet saw him hit an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner to make it 3-0 and take his tally for the season to a remarkable 38 goals.
Saltdean, to their credit, kept pushing forward and a lovely pass from George Hayward released former Lancer Jared Rance but Mitch Bromage was smartly out to make an excellent save. Lancing were also looking for a fourth and once again Lew Finney and Tom Caplin combined intelligently to create a chance for Max Blencowe which was well blocked as was the follow up from Kyle Woolven, who had looked lively since coming on. Lew kept the move alive and fed Brad Santos who’s shot from 30 yards wasn’t held by Cullings but he grabbed it at the second attempt before the on rushing Woolven could get a toe to it.
Rance was continuing to cause Lancing trouble on our right and an excellent cross from him needed Josh Couper to show the defensive abilities that have earned him two recent Man of the Match awards with a timely block. Saltdean continued to probe but the Lancing defence, superbly marshalled by Liam Hendy throughout, held firm and Mitch kept what we hope is the first of many clean sheets in Lancing colours. Ultimately this was a hard fought but well-deserved win and a real festive treat for the 119 crowd braving the British weather and avoiding the last minute Christmas shopping.
Man of the Match was Conrad Honore who was excellent throughout in front of the back four and who’s intelligent passing and positioning was all the more impressive as this was not his usual role.
Report by Barry Sutton.
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