FA Cup first round exiters Sheppey United struck late in both halves as they enjoyed a second win in Sussex inside four days.
The Ites had hammered Lancing’s near neighbours Littlehampton 6-0 on their most recent visit to these parts on Tuesday. A much closer contest was in store with three places and points between two of the form sides in the Isthmian South East League.
In truth, a draw probably would have been a fair result but substitute Danny Leonard cut in to curl home the winner in the final minute in Lancing’s final home fixture of 2023. Lukas Franzen-Jones opener had been cancelled out by Javaun Splatt’s leveller on the cusp of half time.
Manager Dave Altendorff made two changes to the XI that won memorably at Ashford last time out. Andrew Briggs came in for Alex Plummer in midfield and captain Alex Laing was only a sub having picked up a knock in training. Recent Culver Road returnee Charlie Pitcher was handed his first start having hit the winner from the bench in the aforementioned comeback victory over Ashford.
Buoyed by our impressive run of form, the Lancers started brightly and went close inside five minutes when Pitcher burst down the left on the counter attack. He failed to make the most of the opening, however, Sheppey’s keeper Aiden Prall was equal to it.
Olamilekan Majoyegbe flashed a shot wide from distance for the visitors before Charlie Bennett went close at the other end having been picked out by Tyrone Madhani. Most of Lancing’s best attacking play was coming through Madhani at right-back as he got forward at will and tested the Sheppey backline with a series of teasing crosses.
Lancing almost forced an own goal from their high-flying Kent opponents when a Briggs free-kick flicked off the head of the backpedalling Connor Wilkins and crept narrowly beyond the far post and out for a corner.
Lancing went ahead on the half hour mark when ‘Gorgeous’ George Taggart collected the ball on the right hand side of the penalty area and a good link up between Tyrone Madhani and Knory Scott made space for a run by Charlie Bennett. Knory crosses it into Bennett and he taps it in at the near post
Prall saved well at the feet of Knory Scott and Taggart went close with both goalkeepers called into action thereafter. Louis Rogers kept out a Josh Wisson header and the Lancers stopper also had to be alert to snuff out the danger with Daniel Bradshaw lurking from a cutback.
With the half time interval looming, Lancers were hit with a sucker punch as Wisson burst clear down the left and pulled the ball back for Splatt to slide in the equaliser. There was more than a hint of offside about the goal but Lancing’s protestations towards the referee and his assistants ultimately fell on deaf ears.
Half time 1-1.
The match became increasingly stretched as both sides served up a pre-Christmas cracker in the presence of Santa.
Louis produced strong hands to palm away a Del Morgan header and Taylor cut inside only to shoot just beyond the far post.
Lancing would come closer still with an hour played. Bennett and Franzen-Jones were linking up well and their combination almost worked to deadly effect when, just moments after the former should have scored, he found the latter. Franzen – Jones flicked the ball on only to see it bounce back off the upright and away.
Lancing were knocking on the proverbial door and Charlie Gibson was next to try his luck when his drive from distance invitingly fell for anyone in yellow. No one was there to meet it when a touch would surely have taken it in.
Jack Meeres thwarted Taylor with an excellent recovering tackle as the Sheppey striker looked poised to score
Franzen – Jones was causing no end of problems up top and could count himself unfortunate not to be going home with an early Christmas present of the match ball. With 15 minutes to play and Lancers in need of inspiration, Lukas almost provided it. Our leading scorer channelled his inner Garnacho with a spectacular overhead kick only for his acrobatic effort to be met by an equally spectacular piece of goalkeeping.
That looked to be the final chance of the contest with both sides seemingly content with a point each. There would have been few complaints had that been the outcome but there was to be one final unwelcome sting in the tail.
Substitute Leonard collected the ball wide on the left and cut in to curl a stunning strike into the top corner with Rogers helpless. Late and undeserved agony for the Lancers.
With four minutes added, Lancing refused to lie down and could have leveled in the final minute when Taggart’s cross found Briggs but his header was well held by Prall.
Overall, a slightly unfair result for Dave Altendorff and his team to end our five-match unbeaten run ahead of another Sussex derby at East Grinstead on Tuesday.
There were a number of excellent individual performances in yellow. Knory Scott and Lukas particularly stood out for me, with Scott excellent both in defence and attack. Franzen – Jones led the line well and caused a lot of problems, but Charlie Gibson was given the man of the match award by match sponsor and birthday girl Emilia Hamilton. Well played Charlie!
Lancing remain in the top ten of the Isthmian South East League but have dropped a place to ninth. Sheppey climb to fourth and into the play-off positions albeit having played more games than everyone around them.
We visit East Grinstead on Tuesday night (7:30pm) then go to Burgess Hill for another Sussex derby on Boxing Day (1pm).
Lancing starting XI: Louis Rogers, Tyrone Madhani, Charlie Gibson, Andrew Briggs, Jack Meeres, Sam Bull, Knory Scott, Charlie Bennett, Lukas Franzen – Jones (c), George Taggart, Charlie Pitcher.
Substitutes: Alex Laing (for Pitcher 64), Harry Heath (for Scott 75), Kyle Sim (for Gibson 80), Jacob Thompson, Will Berry.
Jamie Spoor reports on behalf of the absence of Dave Wilmott