Our thanks to Ian Townsend at the Isthmian Football League for reporting on the fixture at Culver Road, and permitting our use of his report here.
You can view this and more news via the league website here.
Football finally returned- and the FA Cup served up a cracker courtesy of Lancing and Phoenix Sports. We saw six goals- and then twenty one penalties.
And then it was three. Gaggin was found at the right hand side of the box, and had time to pick his spot, firing a sweet shot over the keeper and in off the underside of the bar. Sports were three-one up, and the Lancing fans in the main stand wondered how on earth that had happened. We were watching a fabulously entertaining match, and their side had done the lions share of the entertaining, but they were now two goals behind.
The match became a little scrappy. Good work from Gaggin saw him test Bromage to his left, but the visitors were content to contain their hosts, who seemed somewhat deflated and started to misplace passes. A free kick from Ansah, just outside the box, forced Bromage to touch it onto his upright, and the resulting corner saw Michael Azaiya volley wide. The pace of the game had slackened markedly.
Lancing were unlucky not to get a spot kick on thirty nine minutes, Honore seemingly upended, but it spurred them into action, and not forty seconds had passed when they were back in the game in a big way, the energetic Connolly forcing home to make it two-three. Suddenly the home crowd, who seemed to have dozed off since the last Sports goal, were awake once more, and the game sparked back into life. Daniel then forced a fabulous save from a full-stretch Phillips, and the Sports keeper was quick to touch the rebound away from an onrushing forward when it seemed the equaliser was certain. Another Phillips save shortly afterwards, this time from Honore, kept Sports ahead- but they were living on their nerves, as was the travelling support.
The half came to an end after nearly two added minutes, and goodness, it had been superb to watch. If we’d forgotten what we were missing during the last six months, we had surely remembered again now. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as live football with an audience!
The second half started with Lancing once more demonstrating their willingness to try and play their way out of trouble. It was immensely entertaining for the neutrals, but it offered an explanation for why so many of the home fans were bald (and that was just the girls!).
On fifty three minutes Sports must have thought they were about to go further ahead. Chin had time and space to shoot, but Bromage made a point blank save to keep his side in the match. The striker held his head in amazement; he must have been convinced that a match ball was firmly in his grasp.
It was perhaps unreasonable to expect the second half to have the pace of the first. But ten minutes in Andrew Dythe was complaining that it had all gone quiet, and he could have been referring to the entire stadium. Lancing tried to shake things up, taking off Daniel and bringing on Waters, and Sports took the opportunity to do the same, Oliver Andrews making his way onto the field.
As we entered the last twenty minutes, suddenly the game came to life once more. Substitute Hitchens saw an effort for the hosts cleared just in front of the line with the keeper beaten, and at the other end a run and cross from Chin was diverted just past the post by a desperate defensive lunge. The margin between timely interception and desperate own goal was fine indeed- but the excitement was short-lived.
Could Lancing find that equaliser? A cross which evaded everyone in a packed Sports box before creeping past the far post just needed a touch, but in truth it had been a rare moment of danger for the visitors, who allowed the home side to continue with their patient passing game when in their own half, but quickly closed them down when they threatened. And then there were ten minutes left, and then five, and it seemed that the endeavours of the first half had left very little in the tank for either side.
And then, with three minutes remaining, a last push. Lancing went forward, and Sports couldn’t clear the ball from the edge of their own box. Suddenly a space, and a shot, and it was three-three. Jeilward was credited with the goal, but it was doubtful if most of the crowd could see who had scored it through the crowd of bodies in the way. Were we off to penalties?
The home side, buoyed by their equaliser, wanted to avoid that, and a cross from Goldsmith was desperately hacked clear as we moved into added time. A shot from Waters was blocked, a cross headed clear, and the yellow wave continued to rush forward, but the breakthrough didn’t come. Jeilward shot wide, we approached the sixth added minute, and the whistle went. We were left with the lottery.
Sports were up first, and Danny Young took on the responsibility, and found the net, Bromage diving to his left, the ball going the other way. Substitute Jarden took an even better kick, right in the bottom corner, and it was one-one.
Bromage got to the next one, but Fitchett wasn’t to be denied and it crept into the net. Hendy levelled matters once more, finding the same corner as his yellow predecessor.
Chin found the top corner to make it three-two, and we had five penalties out of five scored. Waters made it six out of six. Who would be the first to blink?
It wasn’t Everett, who made it four-three to Sports. Now it was Goldsmith’s turn, and although Phillips went the right way, the ball evaded his fingers. Four-all.
Whitelock must have been nervous, but hammered the ball home, and it was five-four. Were the sides ever going to be separated? Connolly- perhaps the best player on the pitch in the first half- made it five-all, and it was sudden death. Someone asked whether we’d still be here in the morning. Bird made sure we were still on tenterhooks by making it six-five. And then it was six-all, Berry with the goal.
Bryon was next up, and nonchalantly found the corner. Seven-six. Pressure was now on Hitchens. What pressure? Seven- all.
Eight-seven, Oliver Andrews, but off the underside of the bar and in off the keeper. Eight-all, Gould.
Nine-eight, and now Bromage was facing his opposite number. He blasted home for nine-all.
Douglas was next for Sports, and passed it home. Ten-nine. Striker Jeilward was next, and made no mistake. We were still level, and into double figures.
Goalkeeper Phillips had been man of the match. He scored, of course. Eleven-ten. Hendy stepped up for Lancing, placed the ball, and…Phillips did what he had done best all night, diving to his right to save. Sports were through!
What a match, and what a start to the season. Congratulations to Sports, whose supporters should go into the new league season with optimism after that performance. But commiserations to Lancing. This was a match that neither deserved to lose- and on the basis of that performance, the Lancers might be an excellent addition to our ranks for the 2021-22 campaign.