Lancing Starting XI:
Alieu Secka, Harrison Parker, Will Berry, Liam Hendy, Mahamadou Juwara, Finn Daniels-Yeoman (Capt.), James Rhodes, Darius Goldsmith, Modou Jammeh, Lorenzo Lewis, Matt Daniel.
Isaiah Corrie, Bradley Campbell-Francis, Anesu Sisimayi, Danny Kingston, Mohammed Joumaa Zabadne.
Lancing’s journey in the Isthmian League began on a sunny day as long ago as 14th August 2021 and they quickly realised the size of the task facing them, suffering a 4-0 defeat and this was followed by three more losses, conceding 4 goals each time. By strange coincidence their improvement began early in September with a 1-0 victory over today’s opponents. No-one could have anticipated then how important the return fixture would become. My last report set out what was required on the last day of the league season.
Our regular home supporters appreciated the significance of being at the Belmont Stadium to provide their usual high intensity vocal support and their presence conveyed to the players a definite upbeat feeling. An almost full coach load created the right atmosphere which, in turn, helped to create a sense of belief and confidence in the Lancing players. Talking to some of the players, I detected a different mood from the Phoenix game when I sensed a slight feeling of unease.
It became clear soon after k.o that the blustery wind and an unpredictable playing surface would make it difficult for either side to display football of high quality. But play was end to end and Lancing looked to have got off to a perfect early start when Lorenzo Lewis showed some excellent control on Lancing’s left wing before delivering a cross which Matt Daniel turned into the net. Joy was short lived as the offside flag was raised.
It was the turn of Whitstable to get down the other end of the pitch earning a free kick which had Alieu Secka scrambling across his goal to push the ball behind the upright for a corner. The delivery from the left made full use of the wind as the ball curled in dangerously close to the far corner but, to Lancing’s relief, it hung in the air clearing the cross bar.
Lorenzo Lewis looked full of energy as he ran on to a superb pass from James Rhodes and brought the ball under control before driving the ball goal wards but with too much elevation.
Charlie Heatley, the Oysters number 9, then broke into the Lancing box but Alieu Secka was able to get to the ball and hold it despite being under pressure. He appeared to receive a kick when he fell as he kept possession of the ball, which led to a bit of jostling between players.
Whitstable were showing that they could counter attack with pace and took advantage of some leniency by referee Aaron Conn, as James Rhodes appeared to be fouled, causing him to concede possession. The end result was a poor finish.
Lorenzo Lewis was again the main threat for Lancing, as Modou Jammeh executed a clever pass down Lancing’s right. Lorenzo was on to the ball and made inroads towards the goal but his strike ended up in the side netting.
The Oysters made their first substitution for the second half with Muhammed Cham coming on for Jack Hanson. They then caused momentary panic in the Lancing defence as Will Berry was just able to stretch and clear the ball as it threatened to cross the line. Little did he know that if the ball had crossed the line a “goal” would have been disallowed for offside.
For the second time, Matt Daniel was quick to get on the end of a cross from the left, this time from Mo Juwara and plant the ball in the net. But, once again, he was denied a goal by the offside flag.
Lancing were gradually getting on top as the second half progressed and were coping with the conditions much better and keeping possession for longer periods. The midfield trio of Goldsmith, Daniels-Yeoman and Modou Jammeh were covering so much ground and competing for every ball.
On 62 minutes James Rhodes completed his stint giving way to Bradley Campbell-Francis who was soon up and running showing his pace and trickery wide on Lancing’s right. Lancing’s pressure finally produced dividends on 68 minutes and it was a case of third time lucky for leading goal scorer Matt Daniel, as he again turned in a cross from the left, but this time the goal stood.
Charlie Heatley again put in a forceful run towards the Lancing goal, appearing to commit a foul against Will Berry in the process. This was not seen by referee Conn and a corner was awarded which Alieu Secka did well to hold on to.
Modou Jammeh was having an impact in a creative role and put Lorenzo Lewis in the clear, leading to another fine cross from him for Matt Daniel to get on the end of, but the ball evaded Matt by a matter of inches. A second goal at this stage of the game, 75 minutes in, might have killed off any hopes the Oysters had of getting something out of the game. Their second substitution came immediately and saw the introduction of Gus Barnes for Stephen Okoh.
As it was, Lancing had Alieu Secka to thank for a superb safe on 78 minutes. As the game reached the final ten minutes Whitstable ‘s desperation seemed to lead to some indiscipline as yellow cards were handed out to Danny Walder on 81 minutes, George Monger on 84 and Jake Mackenzie on 88.
Lancing made their final two substitutions bringing on Isaiah Corrie for Lorenzo Lewis on 83 minutes and Mo Zabadne for Modou Jammeh on 90. As Lorenzo was leaving the field, he somehow upset the referee and got himself a caution.
Lancing continued to give maximum commitment which saw them come successfully through added time to secure the three points which, with Phoenix Sports going down 3-0 at home to Herne Bay guaranteed Lancing a play-off spot which will give them a fighting chance of keeping their place in the Isthmian League.
There was tremendous touchline support led by Chris, Liam, Cameron and others, including the inimitable cry of “come on you blues” from the one and only (guess who??).
The committee, consulting with some of our supporters, tossed around several names as MOM but it was not possible to single out one player from a team in which every player put in 100% effort and determination. So, as suggested by Chris, the award goes to the whole team.
We now know our opponents for the play off will be Newhaven, whom we have met many times before in the SCFL. They finished third, one place below Saltdean, whose ground, as I understand it, disqualifies them for qualification for the Isthmian League.
The match will take place at Culver Road on 30th April. Let’s hope we have a huge following to back our team in this vital fixture.