Pitching In Isthmian League
SOUTH EAST DIVISION
Burgess Hill (The Hillians) 2 v Lancing 4
Boxing Day 26.12.2023
Boxing Day was the ideal occasion for this local derby as it allowed for a good attendance. The Hillians are a well-supported team and the Lancing followers were there in good number providing their customary loud vocal support. There is a friendly rivalry between the two teams but also strong connections on the playing side. Current Lancers who have played for the Hillians are Charlie Pitcher, Alex Laing, Andrew Briggs, Charlie Bennett, Lukas Franzen-Jones, Henry Watson and Will Berry. Ex-Top scorer for Lancing, Lew Finney (now with Haywards Heath) also turned out for the Hillians this season.
As is well known, Lancing lost their management team and several players to The Hillians at the end of last season. Dean Cox left his Hillians manager’s role a few weeks ago but former Lancers, Marcus Allen, Modou Jammeh and Darren Budd were in the starting line-up and Marcel Powell and Reece Hallard were on the bench. Marcel has featured quite often but Reece has struggled with an injury for 4 months or so. Also, in Hillians colours until recently, was former Lancing favourite and skipper Finn Daniels-Yeoman who has also joined a Haywards Heath team whose recruitment, which also includes ex-Lancers Liam Hendy and Josh Spinks should give them a fighting chance of re-joining the Isthmian League.
This fixture in season 2022/23 produced a game which will live long in the memory of those Lancing supporters there on that day. Lancing were under the management of Dean Cox with a squad, many of which joined him at Burgess Hill, after Lancing had secured their place in the Isthmian League. Burgess Hill had built up a lead of 4-1 but Lancing clawed their way back into the game. They were still trailing
4-3 as full time approached. A thunderbolt from Reece Hallard on 90 minutes brought the sides level. The cheers from Lancing supporters could be heard at Culver Road!!!
The two sides met in August this season with Dean Cox and The Hillians management team making an early return to Culver Road. To say they got away with daylight robbery was an understatement. A Rob O’Toole header in the first half was sufficient to give the Hillians three points but Lancing hit the cross bar twice, put the visitors under sustained pressure until the final whistle but could not produce a finish. A claim for a penalty was disallowed by an offside decision and the Hillians keeper escaped a clear red card after bringing down Alex Laing as he was about to round him with an open goal awaiting.
I think it fair to say that the visiting management knew that they were fortunate to come away with three points.
David Altendorff kept faith with the same starting eleven which came very close to a share of the points with Sheppey. It was clear from the kick off that this was to be a no holds barred encounter. Both sides were looking to attack. The Hillians won a free kick within 2 minutes and Darren Budd picked out Marcus Allen in the six-yard box but his header was off target. Lancing looked to be in trouble when Kieron Rowe found himself in acres of space down Lancing’s right flank but a well-timed tackle by Jack Meeres brought him to a halt. Lancing began to enjoy some good possession and were moving the ball around quickly and accurately. George Taggart, Andrew Briggs and Knory Scott exchanged passes leading to the ball being played in behind for Lukas Franzen-Jones but the pass ran away from him.
The Hillians were breaking forward with Reggie Ward showing a good turn of pace down Lancing’s left but Charlie Gibson and the imperious Sam Bull were preventing him from posing any real threat and they were launching counter attacks feeding Charlie Pitcher and the strong running Charlie Bennett.
The long-limbed Jack Taylor (a promising young player with spells at Fulham, Chelsea, Reading and Southampton, currently on loan from Sutton Utd) was looking to be a threat, with his long striding bursts from the back, but the Lancing defence were able to close him down before he could get anywhere near the goal.
With 17 minutes gone, Lancing got their breakthrough. Charlie Pitcher skipped past his full back on the left, cutting in and side footing the ball into the far corner. Lancing were driving forward with Charlie Bennett, Andrew Briggs and George Taggart looking powerful. Briggs looked set to hit the opposition box until brought down by a rugby tackle from Darren Budd, which earned him a caution.
Play was held up for Marcus Allen to receive treatment fora rib injury. Allen attempted to continue but had to leave the field. Whilst he was out of action, Lancing went two up. The Hillians defence failed to clear a Charlie Gibson free-kick, the ball only reaching Charlie pitcher at the edge of the box. He prodded it back towards goal where it was met by Lukas Franzen-Jones who reacted to turn the ball over the line.
Lancing almost made it three when Harry Mills was put in difficulties by a pass from keeper Luke Glover. George Taggart pounced and, with the keeper stranded out of position, a goal looked a certainty but despite calmly directing the ball towards an empty net it curled wide of the far upright.
Marcus Allen was unable to continue and was replaced by Harry Lawson on 36 minutes.
Charlie Bennett, showing real drive and determination, dispossessed Jack Taylor and was well positioned to increase Lancing’s lead but keeper Glover reacted quickly to block his effort. Louis Rogers was called into action twice with superb saves to keep The Hillians at bay and at the other end Glover did well to smother the ball at the feet of Charlie Pitcher.
Minutes from the break, Lancing looked to have put the game beyond The Hillians. A delicate chipped pass from Knory Scott put Charlie Bennett, just onside, in behind and he picked his spot driving the ball low into the far corner.
The Hillians had the last say as the half came to an end. Louis Rogers was adjudged to have handled the ball outside his area. Darren Budd drove the free-kick low and hard towards the near post but Dan Perry could only deflect the ball over the cross bar. Reggie Ward had one final attempt on goal but his well struck shot ended up in the side netting.
Early in the second half, there was a scare for Lancing, when a harmless looking lob from Reggie Ward caught everyone by surprise when it dropped onto the angle of cross bar and upright, before dropping out of play.
The Hillians gave themselves a glimmer of hope with a goal on 53 minutes. Darren Budd, who had lost none of his ability on the ball, curled a shot goal-wards only to see it rebound from the cross bar. Lancing desperately tried to clear the loose ball but Dan Perry was able to steer it into the net with Charlie Gibson close to keeping it out.
At this point Lancing brought on Alex Laing and Harry Heath for Charlie Pitcher and Knory Scott. Lancing were being penned back as The Hillians were boosted by the early goal but Lancing’s back four were in no mood to cave in. Harry Heath was quickly into action setting up Lukas Franzen-Jones who forced Glover to make a good save. Franzen-Jones returned the favour putting Harry Mills under pressure as they both challenged for the ball in the air. The ball fell to Harry Heath who restored Lancing’s three goal lead with a well-placed finish.
The Hillians were then gifted an opportunity to close the gap with a hotly disputed penalty award. The ball was driven hard at Tyrone Madhani, appearing to strike his chest from a few feet and rebound on to his arm. Furthermore, it looked as if Tyrone was outside of the box. (YOU TUBE viewers of the Highlights have supported this). Be that as it may ,Dan Perry took the spot kick. It was well struck but Louis Rogers judged the direction of the ball and flew to his right to make a vital save. Vital because, with 25 minutes left, The Hillians would have fancied their chances of achieving what Lancing did with their 4-4 draw.
Lancing made their final substitution with Jacob Thompson coming on for Tyrone Madhani, and The Hillians brought on ex-Lancers, attacking winger Marcel Powell. Unfortunately for Marcell, referee James Kerten saw what looked like a 50/50 challenge with Louis Rogers, as the Lancing keeper dived bravely at the feet of the onrushing Powell, as dangerous and handed him a caution.
Jack Taylor had been kept busy defending but still had the legs to motor forward from deep and, this time, on 41 minutes there was an end product as he arrowed the ball into the bottom corner.4-2 to the Lancers with added time to play. Darren Budd had an effort on goal blocked by Harry Heath but that was the closest the Hillians came as Lancing mounted a strong defence in the closing stages.
A thoroughly competent performance by The Lancers. Tremendous work rate and determination from every player. The opening goal from Charlie Pitcher was the catalyst which gave Lancing confidence to play an attacking game, which certainly paid off. The Hillians have plenty of pace in their team, with defenders willing to get forward, but they were up against a well-disciplined Lancing back four.
There were strong claims for Player of the Match wherever you looked. Certainly, Sam Bull might have played his best game for his team. However, two crucial saves from Louis Rogers in the first half, the superb penalty save and his bravery to win the ball at the feet of Marcell Powell in the second half earned Louis Rogers the award.
The important thing is that this win moves Lancing up to 8th place with 25 points, having played 15 games, 4 points behind Sheppey in 5th after 18 games. Burgess Hill trail in 12th place on 17 points after 16 games.
Finally, although I hate to finish on a sour note, the referee saw fit to award 7 yellow cards to Lancing, 4 for dissent and 2 for delaying the restart. 4 yellows to Burgess Hill. He did face a lot of criticism. The definition of dissent in the laws is “An audible and visible disagreement with the referee’s decision which reflects negatively on the official’s fairness or competence. It is said to be destructive to the players and to game control “
If the players were expressing their disagreement in an exaggerated waving of the arms (such as displayed by Diego Dalot expressing his annoyance at an incorrect throw in decision) or getting in the referee’s face in an aggressive manner, one could understand why cautions were issued. Obviously, from my position in the stand, I cannot be precise about what took place but it seems to me that a quiet word by the referee to player and captain might have been sufficient. Any continued misbehaviour thereafter would justify a caution.
I would just add that, as is my wont, I shook the referee’s hand and thanked all three officials. Theirs is not an easy job.
Lancing starting XI:
Louis Rogers, Tyrone Madhani (Jacob Thompson72), Jack Meeres , Sam Bull, Charlie Gibson, Andrew Briggs, George Taggart, Charlie Bennett, Knory Scott(Harry Heath 59), Lukas Franzen-Jones ,Charlie Pitcher (Alex Laing 58).
Unused substitutes: Kyle Sim, Eliot Jenks