PITCHING IN ISTHMIAN LEAGUE
South East Division
Ashford United (The Nuts and Bolts) 3 v Lancing 4
Lancing came to the Homeland Stadium looking to extend an unbeaten run which comprised 3 wins and 1 draw. Ashford were lying in 5th place after an impressive run of 5 wins, 1 draw and 1 defeat (Cray Valley) in their last seven. After a less than scintillating performance against lowly Beckenham Town, although coming away with three points, Lancing knew that they would have to be on their mettle to get anything from this encounter.
Some changes from the Beckenham starting line-up saw leading goal scorer Lukas Franzen-Jones back, after being unavailable, and Tyrone Madhani was in after a substitute appearance against Beckenham. A former Lancing favourite, much travelled goal scorer, Charlie Pitcher, was on the bench after the necessary paper work had been completed, sanctioning his transfer from Haywards Heath.
Whether the extreme cold was a factor or not, Lancing were certainly caught cold after only three minutes. A quick counter attack down Lancing’s right flank ended with a delivery into the box which was swept home by joint top scorer Vance Bola. Lancing were troubled by the early pace down the flanks, particularly from forward Kymani Thomas and left back Thomas Carlse. Lancing were desperately trying to gather some composure and establish a foothold in the game.
Alex Laing was put through by a fine defence splitting pass but his cross was intercepted and put behind for a corner. Lancing were again exposed by a swift breakaway down their right, latching on to a clearance from the corner but good defensive work restored possession. Around the 20-minute mark, Lancing began to move the ball around well, prompted by some clever movement from George Taggart, twisting and turning and leaving his marker as he advanced forward.
Ashford continued to pose a threat down their left and Thomas Carlse finished off another good run firing into the near post, bringing an excellent save from Louis Rogers.
Knory Scott was able to get on the ball after being tightly marked early on, skipping through a couple of tackles, but there was a closing of ranks stifling any potential effort on goal. Lancing were now able to keep the fast moving Ashford midfield quiet for a while, allowing Charlie Bennett to embark on a strong run and deliver the ball to Lukas Franzen-Jones who exchanged quick passes with Knory Scott . From this attack, Ashford were forced into conceding a corner. Charlie Gibson curled a fine cross into the box and Tyrone Madhani broke through a ruck of players to head home on 29 minutes
This gave confidence a boost and Tyrone drove forward feeding the ball to George Taggart who severely tested keeper Jacob Russell who could only palm the ball upwards. Lukas Franzen-Jones was poised to pounce, as the ball dropped, but he was flagged offside.
Lancing could not hold on to level status for long as, in the 35th minute, another forward dart, with Lancing appealing for offside, led to a well struck effort on goal, which Louis Rogers did well to keep out but the ball rebounded from him and Thomas Carlse drove it back past a couple of defenders, desperately trying to block it.
Three minutes later, Lancing fell further behind as the ball was given away, allowing Vince Bola to apply the finishing touch for his second.
Lancing looked more in control as the half ended with some patient approach work leading to a free-kick. This was cleared, the ball reaching Tyrone Madhani whose first time shot flew wide. He then delivered a threatening cross into the box which Russell just managed to punch clear of Alex Laing.
During the half time interval, the fog grew denser, making it difficult to keep track of play from our position in the stand when the ball was on the far side of the pitch. At one stage, during the second half, referee Lee Markwell consulted his assistant to confirm, we understand, that he was able to sufficiently see to the opposite side.
Lancing made a change for the second half with skipper Alex Laing standing down for Harry Heath. A further tactical switch saw Tyrone Madhani occupying the right back slot and Charlie Bennett moving into a more advanced position. Whatever motivational words and tactical instructions were uttered by David Altendorff and his coaching team in the half-time dressing room, it certainly produced the desired effect. Lancing looked far more composed and enjoyed more possession. They were taking the game to the opposition. A free-kick for a foul on Lukas Franzen-Jones led to a corner. The ball was cleared to the edge of the box where George Taggart won possession, firing it towards a goal but just off target. Lancing continued to drive forward and got their reward on 59 minutes when Charlie Bennett rose to power home a header from a Charlie Gibson corner. It was beginning to appear that Ashford were getting nervy as they were less assured with the ball and Lancing were closing down quickly.
On 71 minutes, it was time to bring on Charlie Pitcher for Knory Scott, to add a bit of extra fire power from a proven goal scorer. Ashford also made a couple of substitutions, one of them, rather surprisingly, was to take off the dangerous Kymani Thomas.
Louis Rogers was on hand to keep Lancing’s hope of getting something from the game, making a first class save as an Ashford attacker ran clear to strike for goal.
This was to prove vital as Lancing broke forward with Lukas Franzen-Jones being brought down. Referee Markwell had no hesitation in awarding a penalty, waving away Ashford protests. Lukas kept his cool and gave the keeper no chance as he brought his side level. Lancing looked to have gone in front shortly afterwards, as Charlie Bennett latched on to an excellent ball over the top from Tyrone Madhani to get the ball over the line but the offside flag had been raised.
As the game approached 7 minutes of added time, we could just about make out a ghostly figure resembling Charlie Pitcher motoring down the left towards the box. The next thing was the sound of raucous cheers from the Lancing players, which told us that Charlie had found the back of the net. So, from a seemingly dead and buried position, Lancing had staged a fine second half recovery to earn all three points. There was still seven minutes of added time to see out before victory could be assured and there was still one more important save from Louis Rogers, but Lancing were home and dry.
It was the return of the prodigal with the winning goal. Whenever Charlie’s name is mentioned (in recent times this would have been when he played against Lancing for a number of teams on his travels, including the likes of Loxwood and Littlehampton), supporters always recall his exploits in August 2018 when he scored 4 goals (in 65 minutes, when he was substituted) in a 7-3 win against Greenwich Borough in the F.A CUP preliminary round.
From a seemingly lost cause, Lancing showed a resilience and togetherness to turn the game around in the second half. It was a fine team performance, once again, which made our selection of Player of the Match difficult. To single out one player might be unjust on the others. Tyrone Madhani had a fine game, each of the defenders did well in the second half but most supporters and committee were particularly impressed by the work rate and skill on the ball shown by George Taggart. He was Lancing’s main man in the first half, especially when Lancing were under real pressure. So, George was the recipient of the medallion.
Lancing have now reached their highest position, rising to 7th, above Ashford in 8th on goal difference.
Lancing Starting XI:
Louis Rogers, Charlie Bennett, Sam Bull, Jack Meeres, Charlie Gibson, Alex Plummer, George Taggart, Alex Laing (Capt.), Tyrone Madhani, Knory Scott, Lukas Franzen-Jones.
Charlie Pitcher (Knory Scott 71 mins.), Alex Laing (Harry Heath 46 minutes), Dan Hull (Charlie Gibson,90 minutes), Will Berry, Eliot Jenks.