Pitching In Isthmian League South East Division
Lancing 1 v Merstham 0
One change enforced on manager David Altendorff from the team which triumphed against Rusthall saw him bring in Dan Hull into central defence to replace Sam Bull, who had not fully recovered from an ankle injury.
Merstham are new to this Division, having moved sideways from The South Central Division, where they finished in 18th position. A familiar face in the Merstham squad was ex-Lancer Lorenzo Lewis.
Lancing were pressing high from the kick off, and playing with confidence from the back. It took just 6 minutes for George Taggart to hit the target forcing a superb one handed save from keeper Zack Basey. Lancing came close to conceding against the run of play when a defensive error presented centre forward Craig Kingswell with a clear-cut opening in the box but Alieu Secka was off his line in a flash to close him down and make a vital block.
Basey was tested again by Lukas Franzen-Jones but was able to get down to palm a low drive away. The Lancing striker was again a threat having been sent goal-wards by a fine pass from George Taggart and hit a low ball across the face of the goal. Franzen-Jones came close to giving Lancing the lead, latching onto a pass from Alex Laing but his effort was hooked away from the goal -line by a Merstham defender.
Lancing were exploiting space on both flanks with Harry Heath on the left and Tyrone Madhani on the right able to get forward and pose a real threat. Alex Laing, George Taggart and Andrew Briggs were delivering a range of accurate balls to the wide men and Merstham were struggling to halt their advance into the final third. Both full backs, Charlie Gibson, on the left and Charlie Bennett on the right were linking up well with their wide men and supporting attacks with overlapping runs. It was a strong run by Charlie Bennett which brought the first yellow card of the game when he was pulled back as he powered towards the box.
Despite Lancing’s domination, driven on by their energetic midfield trio, with skipper Alex Laing in outstanding form, they were finding it difficult to get the goal their play merited. Merstham wasted another opportunity to punish a rare defensive slip by Charlie Gibson who conceded possession, close to goal. With the goal gaping, Craig Kingswell dragged the ball wide of the far upright.
Lancing had the final word as half time approached. George Taggart was fouled at the edge of the box. Alex Laing hit a superb free-kick which curled over the wall and was heading for the top corner but kept out by an outstanding one-handed save from Basey. Charlie Bennett then came close with a header from a fine cross from Tyrone Madhani.
Some frustration from the Lancers at not being able to turn some very attractive play into at least one goal. Merstham would be kicking themselves at not taking advantage of a couple of golden opportunities.
Lorenzo Lewis made his return to Culver Road coming on at 46 minutes, replacing David Bangurah.
Lancing broke the deadlock on 50 minutes. Tyrone Madhani was tripped and the free-kick was well controlled by Lukas Franzen-Jones but keeper Basey ‘s agility allowed him to make another fine finger-tip save. But Lancing capitalised on the corner with Henry Watson rising at the far post to power his header home.
Shortly afterwards it was Alieu Secka’s turn to earn his keep with a low save to his left. Tyrone Madhani and Harry Heath continued to torment their full backs .Tyrone beat his man and delivered a promising cross but it cleared attackers and defenders.
Lancing made their first substitution on 57 minutes with Kyle Sim replacing Charlie Gibson who had received a blow to his ankle.
Lukas Franzen-Jones came close again. Alex Laing had won yet another tussle for the ball, switching it to Tyrone Madhani who laid it into the path of Franzen-Jones but his effort cleared the bar. Harry Heath finished a good run with a shot which went wide and then Charlie Bennett intercepted a pass to lay the ball to Tyrone Madhani, received the return pass but his effort on goal rolled narrowly past the upright.
Jaevon Dyer made his Lancing debut on 66 minutes, with Harry Heath making way.
Alex Laing continued to beaver away productively in midfield, this time creating a scoring opportunity for Lukas Franzen-Jones but he hit the ball wide. Lancing were desperate to get a second to kill off any hopes of a Merstham come back. Kyle Sim came close with a header from a corner, George Taggart had a goal bound effort blocked by an outstretched leg and Alex Laing had his shot deflected for a corner. Both Charlie Bennett and Jaevon Dyer showed their ability to dribble their way to the by-line but a second goal continued to elude Lancing.
Lancing made their final substitution with a couple of added on minutes left bringing on Kaiden Hummerston for Lukas Franzen-Jones. Lancing’s goal had not been seriously threatened in a second half in which their back four were in complete control whenever Merstham attempted to get forward and the midfield stifled Merstham’s attempts to play the ball out through their middle men.
A welcome three points to get Lancing’s league season underway. The score line was not an accurate reflection of the Lancers superiority but Zack Basey performed superbly in goal for the visitors and there were a few missed chances.
Match ball sponsor Terry Cartwright had no hesitation in selecting skipper Alex Laing as his Player of the Match. A superb all-round display, ball winning, a fine range of passing, covering so much ground and always ready to try to score. There were fine performances throughout the team. A bit more accuracy in front of goal will no doubt come .