PITCHING IN ISTHMIAN LEAGUE
South East Division
LANCING 3. V SITTINGBOURNE 1
Saturday 22 April 2023
Lancing starting XI :
Alieu Secka, Will Berry, Marcus Allen, Tom Butler, Mahamadou Juwara, Finn Daniels-Yeoman(Capt.), Darius Goldsmith, Modou Jammeh, Tommy Blennerhasset, Reece Hallard, Marcel Powell.
Charles Towning, Mohammed Zabadne, Kane Louis, Tyrese Mthunzi, Tyrone Madhani.
This last match of the season carried with it a mathematical possibility, albeit a high improbability, that if Lancing lost by a significant margin and VCD Athletic won by an equal margin, VCD would consign Lancing to a playoff to secure their Isthmian League status.
Sittingbourne were on a highly successful streak. They last lost on 14th.Feb and, since then, have chalked up 9 wins and three draws. Lancing faced a formidable task, given this run of form, but there was a determination from Dean Cox and his team to go out on a high, confident in their ability to match the best in the league.
Things could not have begun better as Lancing stunned their opponents with a goal inside two minutes. Leading scorer Reece Hallard latched on to a well flighted ball over the top of the defence from Mo Juwara and wasted no time in getting a shot away which flew beyond keeper Alfie Rogers.
Alieu Secka , who was to be kept busy throughout the game , was called in to action minutes after Lancing took the lead, racing from his line to make a clearance. Alfie Rogers was soon under pressure again as Marcel Powell slid in to connect with a cross field pass from Darius Goldsmith, but the keeper was able to react to keep the ball out.
Finn Daniels-Yeoman’s tenacity in midfield was put to the test as he had to chase back to halt a threatening run towards the Lancing box This was just the first of many battles Finn and Darius Goldsmith had to win to keep Sittingbourne’s lively midfield at bay.
Full back Donvieve Jones showed good pace breaking down the right to deliver a cross which came harmlessly off a team mate to roll to Alieu Secka. Alieu made the first real save on 16 minutes getting down well to gather a header from a free kick.
Mo Juwara was prominent on Lancing’s left breaking forward at every opportunity but a strong burst, which took him to the bye-line, ended disappointingly as his cross flew beyond everyone. Sittingbourne were working hard to try and cancel out Lancing’s lead. Mitchell May came close with a well struck effort but it rifled in to the side netting, and the very tall Chaynie Burgin rose to get his head to a free kick but it lacked power and was easily dealt with by Alieu Secka. Sittingbourne were enjoying a good spell and Tom Butler did well to head a dangerous cross clear of the bar to prevent the ball reaching a Sittingbourne player coming in at the far post. Twice, in a couple of minutes, Alieu Secka was called into action, firstly making a superb catch as he was back -pedalling to reach a high cross, then getting down low to make a fine save.
Referee Mark Gidman was not happy with the time Alieu Secka was taking to distribute the ball, when in a position to do so, and issued him with a caution on 32 minutes.
Lancing created a good opening at the other end with Tommy Blennerhasset picking out Modou Jammeh in the box but his effort cleared the bar.
Sittingbourne were forced to make a substitution on 42 minutes with the injured Joe Tyrie having to make way for Aaron Eyoma.
Lancing finished the half on the attack. Darius Goldsmith spread the play wide on the right to Marcel Powell whose pace took him to the bye-line but he was bundled off the ball before he could do any damage. Mo Juwara made a swift interception to cut out a long ball, coming away with it and racing forward but his attempted pass to Tommy Blennerhasset ran too far in front of him.
The second half began with Corey Davidson displaying his ability to launch a long throw in which reached into the heart of the Lancing box. Marcus Allen showed coolness under pressure, controlling the ball, and pirouetting away with it but being brought down as he advanced clear. Clever interplay between Marcel Powell and Tommy Blennerhasset carved out an opening for Reece Hallard but his effort on goal was blocked.
Tom Butler had to be at his best to prevent Sittingbourne making inroads down the right towards the Lancing box and, with Lancing having regained possession, there was good build up along their left leading to the ball being laid into the path of Darius Goldsmith. He brought it under control with his first touch and with his second drove an unstoppable shot beyond the keeper’s right hand into the top corner. Two up for Lancing on 56 minutes. This was the time to add to Lancing’s defensive strength with Tyrese Mthunzi replacing Marcel Powell.
Sittingbourne raised their game and, in the space of a few minutes, Alieu Secka had to keep out a powerful header from Burgin, followed by a fine save to keep out a goal bound free kick, and then had to stretch to his full height to hold on to a corner which threatened to drop into the goal.
Reece Hallard hit back for Lancing sending a good cross into the six-yard box which was headed behind for a corner, taken by Darius Goldsmith. Marcus Allen got his head to the ball but was narrowly off target.
Lancing brought on fresh legs to try and see out the game, with Charlie Towning and Kane Louis coming on for Finn Daniels -Yeoman and Tommy Blennerhasset. Charlie Towning was quickly into the game, hitting an accurate cross field pass to Modou Jammeh who set up Reece Hallard but his finish was disappointing. Following a good passage of possession play, the ball was delivered towards the centre of the penalty area for Charlie Towning but the height of the ball in prevented him from being able to keep his volley below the bar.
Sittingbourne were hitting long balls to try and get behind Will Berry on the right of Lancing’s back four but Will was reading the flight of the ball well and able to clear to safety. Anything beyond the back line fell into Alieu Secka’s safe hands.
Will Berry initiated a good move along the right, finding Modou Jammeh in space, and from him the ball was crossed for Reece Hallard, sliding in towards the upright but unable to make a clean contact.
Sittingbourne’s pressure eventually paid off when a deep cross from the left was met by Chaynie Burgin who picked his spot well with a clinical finish to give his side hope on 81 minutes.
Sittingbourne were throwing everything at Lancing. Alieu Secka had to get down low to hold on to a long ball from deep and needed some treatment having been injured by an onrushing Sittingbourne forward. With a minute of the 90 left, Sittingbourne came close with a shot which nestled in to the side netting.
Pressure was continuous with Sittingbourne winning a couple of corners as the game entered 6 minutes of added time. From the first, a header just cleared the far post and Tom Butler made a great clearing header from the second. There was then a let off for Lancing as their cross bar was rattled.
But Lancing had the final say. Kane Louis held the ball up well wide on the left, laying it into the path of Reece Hallard. It was do or die for Reece. He put everything into his strike on goal and the ball rocketed into the bottom corner to ensure three points for Lancing with a little over a minute left.
The home supporters were in raptures as the final whistle blew. Three cracking goals were enough to see Lancing home with the promise of another season in the Isthmian League.
Lancing had to withstand some intense late pressure but their back four, once again, showed great discipline, keeping their concentration levels high from start to finish.
There was a real battle in the middle of the park but skipper Finn Daniels-Yeoman led by example making tackle after tackle so as not to allow Sittingbourne to make any real progress down the centre, as a result they resorted to use of the long ball.
After a nervy few weeks Lancing could bask in the knowledge that, despite some overwhelming odds against them, as evidenced by the relatively large sums other teams were able to fork out to recruit players, they were able to match most sides, as was clear by the very small margins in the games they lost. The table showed them finishing in 13th place, just behind Littlehampton but above East Grinstead, Burgess Hill and Three Bridges in 14th,15th, and 16th. The remaining Sussex side, Haywards Heath, must enter a play off to remain in the Isthmian League.
Some excellent individual performances from Lancing players but a good all round team effort won the day. So much emotion at the end of the game that left little time for me to seek out many opinions for Player of the Match. Alieu was magnificent again but what we have been lacking was remedied by our leading scorer, Reece Hallard. His early first goal helped to give Lancing confidence and his second came at the right time to put the final nail in the coffin. So, to Reece the honour of being Player of the match for the final game of the season.
Congratulations to Dean, Will, Ross, Steve, and Mark for providing the coaching and game management expertise to keep us all happy as we live to fight another day in the Isthmian League.