Lancing Team; Mitch Bromage, Darius Goldsmith, James Waters, Conrad Honore, Will Berry, Liam Hendy, Mitch Hewens, Darren Budd, Kane Louis, Tom Caplin (c), Matt Daniel. Subs; Joe Kennard, James Rhodes, Harrison Parker, Ben Connolly, Ebou Jallow.
On an afternoon of glorious sunshine, we welcomed Steyning Town to Culver Road in our fourth match in Group B of the Premier Division Supplementary Shield competition. With both sides knowing that they needed a win to remain in contention for the semi-finals, we were expecting an open, high scoring game on our final home game of the season and so it proved. Sadly, spectators were still not allowed inside the ground but, as in our FA Vase match last week, that didn’t stop a band of fans peering over the wall from Monks Rec and getting behind the team – proof, as if it were needed, that our supporters will not be daunted in their efforts to support the yellows.
As in previous shield matches the management team rotated the squad and made six changes from the Tuesday night victory against East Preston, with Goldsmith, Honore, Hendy, Hewens, Budd and Daniel all coming in showing the strength in depth of our squad. The opening ten minutes were quite scrappy with neither side being able to impose themselves on the other and a number of passes being misplaced. As usual the Lancers had the majority of possession but Steyning looked to break quickly on the counter, the Steyning front line being led by ex-Lancing player Harry Heath and the dangerous Toby Bloomfield who was exploiting space down our left-hand side. However, it was Lancing who took the lead after 10 minutes, a ball coming in from the right and Matt Daniel was at hand to stab it home from a few yards out.
Steyning however were not deterred by the early set back and continued to look to counter quickly and it took just six minutes for them to manufacture an equaliser. A shot from the right was initially saved by Mitch Bromage but Bloomfield reacted quickest and buried the rebound from ten yards out. 1-1 and at this stage the game looked as though it could go either way. The next fifteen minutes followed a similar pattern with the best chance falling to Darren Budd after a mishit clearance from Steyning keeper Jordan Hawkins landed at the loanees feet. On this occasion the Steyning keeper made amends with a smart stop as Darren rifled the ball back towards goal. Bizarrely it was a carbon copy of the move that led to the Lancers retaking the lead after 31 minutes. A back pass to the Steyning keeper once again only went as far as Darren Budd on the edge of the box and this time there was no mistake as the ball hit the back of the net to make it 2-1.
Lancing continued to press forward and when the ball fell to Darren Budd some 25 yards out he hit a sumptuous strike which flew in like an arrow via the inside of the left hand post, giving the keeper absolutely no chance. We have seen some lovely goals from Buddy since joining the Lancers but this, for me, was the best of the lot so far.
With a cushion of two goals the Lancers began popping the ball around in midfield with a little more authority and were winning first and second balls with more regularity. It was a typical Lancing move that led to the next goal and a lovely goal it was too. Will Berry had brought the ball forward and some attractive, quick passing on the right-hand side saw Will continue his run. A neat one-two on the edge of the box and a left foot shot across the keeper from just inside the area saw the net bulge again. It was the sort of move we have come to expect from Lancing in the last couple of years and it is this passing game which makes the team such a joy to watch.
Remarkably there was still time for a fifth before half time as Steyning’s resistance collapsed. Mitch Hewens broke the offside trap and raced towards goal a minute before half time. With goalkeeper Hawkins racing towards him Mitch coolly lifted the ball over his head and into the net to round off an impressive first half and make it Lancing 5 Steyning 1 at the break.
Harrison Parker and Ben Connolly came on for James Waters and Kane Louis at half time and Lancing began the second half the way they ended the first, taking just six minutes to add a sixth goal. A nice move down the Lancing right saw the ball come into the box at waist height and Mitch Hewens hit a controlled half volley into the bottom right hand corner.
A flurry of substitutions saw James Rhodes, Joe Kennard and Ebou Jallow replace Tom Caplin, Matt Daniel and Darren Budd but that saw no change in the pattern of play. With Lancing continuing to look confident and hungry they pushed forward and it was substitute Ebou Jallow who almost added a seventh after 68 minutes. Finding a yard of space on the edge of the box Ebou rounded the keeper only to see a Steyning defender get back and clear the goal bound shot off the line. The Lancers were not to be denied though and it was Will Berry after 75 minutes living up to his nickname ‘Gary Goals’. Breaking the lines again he pushed forward and his initial shot was saved. However the ball landed back at Will’s feet and it was a seventh for Lancing and a second for the experienced centre back.
To Steyning’s absolute credit they continued to push forward and it was only a last-ditch block from Liam Hendy that stopped Steyning pulling one back. The next goal was another Lancing one though and it was substitute Ebou Jallow once again finding space in the box after 83 minutes before slotting home to make it 8-1 and round off an excellent afternoon for Lancing.
So Lancing’s final home game of the season saw us produce an excellent attacking performance with a mix of quality and hunger that has typified our success over the last two seasons. News that East Preston had beaten Group B rivals Pagham 1-0 means that Lancing need 4 points from the remaining two group games and kept alive hopes of extending the season beyond next week. Man of the Match goes to Will Berry who scored a brace but was also solid at the back and passed the ball with the assurance and confidence that we have come to expect from him throughout this strangest of seasons.