Lancing Starting XI:
Alieu Secka, Jake LeGrange, Tom Butler, Marcus Allen, Mohamed Joumaa Zabadne, Finn Daniels-Yeoman (Capt.), Tyrone Madhani, Reece Hallard, Ashley Mutongerwa, Billy Fuller, Ollie Starkey.
Josh Gould, Sean Stephenson, Bradley Campbell-Francis, Kane Louis, Reuben Livedy-Austin.
Three weeks after being dumped out of the F.A Trophy at the first hurdle with a 4-1 loss at home to Cray Valley (The Millers), the sides met again at Culver Road in a league fixture. Some changes to the Lancing starting line up from that game. Darius Goldsmith was away but Reece Hallard back. Louis Veneti still injured so Ashley Mutongerwa continued up front. Talented youngsters Billy Fuller and Ollie Starkey were also in to add their energy and enthusiasm.
Back on the bench were Bradley and Josh, having recovered from injury, Kane Louis, now available and Reuben, a loanee from Worthing.
Since their Trophy win, The Millers have exited the F.A. Cup, drawn with Beckenham Town in the league, progressed further in the F.A Trophy and the Kent Cup. They occupy 7th place in the table but, somewhat surprisingly, given the array of attacking threat they possess, only average a goal a game in the league.
Lancing came into this game with a degree of confidence after a solid all-round performance against Whitehawk and nursing a slight sense of injustice, being on the wrong side of a red card dismissal, which was an obvious handicap the last time these two met.
The visitors were quickly on the front foot and Alieu Secka was tested as early as the seventh minute when a Millers forward latched on to a lofted pass over the top and hit the ball low to Alieu’s upright. Denzel Gayle continued where he left off in the Trophy match by taking on Mo Zabadne at every opportunity. Mo stuck to him like glue but Gayle was a real threat hitting dangerous crosses into the box, whenever he managed to get past Mo. Jake LeGrange won a vital challenge to prevent one of the crosses presenting a certain scoring opportunity.
There was pace from The Millers down their left flank also, and Tom Butler did exceptionally well to keep pace with the left winger and block his cross by putting the ball out of danger and behind for a corner.
The Milllers were enjoying good spells of possession in the Lancing half but the Lancing back four kept their shape and discipline, resulting in some favourable offside decisions. Hearts were in mouths on the twenty-minute mark when a misplaced pass from the back fell nicely to Daniel Bennett, who had the presence of mind to spot Alieu Secka off his line and try to lift the ball over him from distance into the unguarded net. Alieu back pedalled quickly but was relieved to see the ball nestle on the top netting.
Ashley Mutongerwa was looking to be a threat for Lancing and was getting into good advance positions. Having been picked out in the box, he, perhaps chose the wrong option in attempting to chip the ball to Tyrone Madhani instead of going for goal. But a couple of minutes later, on twenty-four minutes, he showed that he can finish, opting to hit a low drive from outside the box, which had keeper Chris Lewington at full stretch but unable to prevent the ball going in at the far post.
Daniel Bennett came close to cancelling out the lead shortly afterwards but Alieu Secka’s outstretched leg denied him.
There was a terrific work rate from Lancing’s midfield, led admirably by Finn Daniels-Yeoman, with excellent support, and this enabled Lancing to launch some good counterattacks. Reece Hallard and Ashley Mutongerwa burst forward together but a promising move ended disappointingly with a cross from Hallard which failed to reach his teammate.
The Millers continued to show their attacking intent and twice Tom Butler came to his side’s rescue, firstly with a superbly timed tackle and then a good header to clear when under pressure. His partner centre half, Marcus Allen also performed heroically, cutting out a cross and then getting his head to the ball in from the subsequent corner to clear the danger. Marcus then was quick to dispossess Gayle sending the ball behind for a corner. Alieu Secka had to stretch to reach the in swinger and was alert to recover the ball as it fell from his grasp. Lancing were being penned back for the final quarter of the half, which ended with Marcus Allen volleying the ball to safety. Relief to reach half time still in front but one downside was the cautions issued to Ashley Mutongerwa and Billy Fuller.
No changes were made at half time but with only three minutes gone Marcus Allen looked to have made a superb tackle winning the ball cleanly with his opponent colliding with him. Referee Peter Lowe saw things differently handing out a yellow card to Marcus.
The Millers continued where they left off and were taking the game to Lancing.Tom Butler again showed a cool head to snuff out a dangerous break but, with just under 10 minutes gone, The Millers got their reward for their persistence when a break down the left ended with a strike towards the near upright. Alieu Secka looked to have kept it out but the ball found its way across the line. Initial response was that it was an own goal from Alieu but, speaking to him after the game, he was adamant that he kept the ball out and it bounced off him onto a nameless (!!!!) defender and from him into the net. Be that as it may, The Millers were back on level terms.
The second half belonged to the Millers but there was huge credit to Lancing for not panicking under pressure.Tom Butler continued to make vital tackles as did the rest of the back four.
Sean Stephens came on for Olllie Starkey on 74 minutes, followed shortly afterwards by Reuben Livedy-Austin for Tyrone Madhani . Alieu Secka made a string of vital saves and as the game entered 5 minutes of added time Josh Gould replaced Reece Hallard.
Finn Daniels-Yeoman made a match saving interception and Mo Zabadne prevented a dangerous attack with a fine tackle but it was Alieu Secka who saved the day. Hassan Ibrahym let fly and the ball seemed certain to land in the top corner until Alieu flew through the air to keep it out.
So, a hard-fought point was won, based on a determination to fight to the end. The Millers probably felt that they had done enough to secure all three points but Lancing showed that they are well equipped to maintain a defensive shield with a sound and settled back four and, with hard working support throughout the team, they will be difficult to beat. If they can convert some of their promising attacking moves into goals, they will make progress up the table.
A Millers supporter sat next to me said, after Alieu had made the incredible save just before the final whistle, that he was his MOM for both sides. When we discussed this as a small committee group, it was difficult not to go along with this opinion but we were so impressed with the number of important tackles, blocks and headed clearances from Tom Butler, a very young player growing in stature with every game, that we chose him as our MOM (with apologies to Alieu)