Pitching In Isthmian League
South East Division
Lancing 2 v Hythe Town 1
At first glance, Lancing were facing a mid-table side for this re-arranged fixture at a very cold Culver Road, but closer inspection of the league table tells you that Hythe are at least 5 games adrift of most sides, largely due to a successful F.A. Trophy run, which came to an end on the previous Saturday with a 2-1 home defeat in round 4 at the hands of Chorley. Needless to say, Lancing would have their work cut out if they were to continue their successful run.
Ben Pope was back in the starting eleven for Lancing and a last-minute change brought Charlie Pitcher in for Knory Scott who had succumbed to an injury during warm-up.
Hythe came at Lancing from the off and full back Marcus Goldsmith made good progress down Lancing’s left driving a cross into the box, which forced Louis Rogers to make an early save. Hythe were sending long searching passes down the flanks, mainly down Lancing’s left putting Charlie Gibson under some fairly intense pressure’ but the young full back battled hard to win the ball.
Lancing’s first attack of any threat came from Alex Laing driving forward from deep on the right and delivering the ball from distance forcing Hythe keeper Steven Phillips to stretch to make a one-handed clearance. Lancing maintained the pressure, with George Taggart cutting in and hitting a good effort just wide of the upright.
It was not long before Hythe unleashed one of the strong weapons in their armoury, namely the long throw in from the long-armed and much travelled Jack Steventon, whose former clubs include VCD Athletic, Hastings, Ashford, Herne Bay, Sittingbourne and Faversham. He showed that he was quite capable of reaching the six-yard box from the halfway line but Lancing met the challenge well with defenders attacking the ball, as it came in, to make headed clearances and Louis Rogers coming off his line to claim the ball. He coped well to resist some physical challenges, and on more than one occasion was grateful to referee Luke Charman for spotting some illegality.
Charlie Bennett was a real driving force for Lancing with determined runs in possession towards the Hythe box.
A fine long pass put Hythe’s left winger Bradley Schaffer in behind, but his well struck shot flew just wide. Another opportunity came for Hythe when a careless cross field pass was intercepted but Jack Meeres was quick to spot the danger and took the ball away, conceding a corner.
Lancing were being harshly penalised by the award of free-kicks and had a lot of defending to do to but Sam Bull and Jack Meeres were equal to the task and anything beyond their reach was safely gathered in by Louis Rogers. Every time Lancing conceded a throw in in their half it was tantamount to giving Hythe a corner. But no clear-cut chances were being created, despite the pressure in and around the six-yard box.
Lancing were not able to make much progress through the centre of the attack. Ben Pope was working hard to create openings, but he was well shackled by a defence which has the second best record in the league. More joy was coming from wide on the right, with some promising moves initiated by Alex Laing, who was proving too hot for the Hythe defence to handle and was linking up well with,
Bennett, Taggart and Briggs. Lukas Franzen-Jones was on the receiving end of a particularly nasty challenge and took some time to recover and had a fairly legitimate claim to a penalty turned down when bundled over in the box.
Hythe continued to benefit from some favourable referee decisions which allowed them the opportunity to deliver some dangerous crosses into the box, but the closest they came to profiting was from a header which cleared the crossbar.
Charlie Bennett finished off another driving run, shrugging off a couple of tackles and looked to have provided the assist for a “goal” from Ben Pope who turned and found the net with a quick low shot, only to find that the offside flag had been raised.
A goalless first half but no lack of attacking desire from both teams but with defences doing their job well.
Lancing got a vital breakthrough within the first minute of the second half. Another superb break from attacking full back Alex Laing, playing a one two with Charlie Bennett, finished with a pass to Ben Pope who cleverly laid the ball off to George Taggart whose finish hit the bottom corner in a flash.
Play was held up for a while for an injury to Hythe’s Aaron Barnes. It did not look good when he hobbled off. He came back on but clearly in some distress with an injury to his ankle and had to be helped off, to be replaced by Kane Phillip.
Alex Laing performed exceptionally to create Lancing’s second goal on 55 minutes. He looked to have been felled with a foul tackle. Nothing came from the referee, and it was assumed, without any real evidence, that he allowed advantage as Laing struggled to get to his feet. He was soon brought down again but fought to get to his feet and laid on a perfect pass for Lukas Franzen-Jones who did not waste the opportunity to put Lancing two up.
Hythe gave themselves a boost by closing the gap with a header from a disputed corner on the right. Johan Candy-Bryan found some space as the corner cleared everyone and he powered it back across the goal into the far top corner. Charlie Gibson had put in a terrific shift but he seemed to be tiring and was replaced immediately afterwards by Dan Howick in the centre of the defence with Sam Bull switching to left back.
Lancing came close with a couple of headers, the first from Jack Meeres, and then Dan Howick. Charlie Bennett had been massaging the back of his leg for a while and was clearly struggling with what looked to be hamstring strain. With a little over 25 minutes to go, he was withdrawn with Alex Plummer substituting. He was soon on the wrong side of the referee as he was forced to bring a threatening break to a halt with a trip and earned himself a caution.
Lancing did not sit back but continued to take the game to Hythe. Alex Laing was again the provider, giving Harry Heath an opening, which saw him hit a low drive put behind for a corner. Jack Meeres got his head to the ball from the corner but could not direct it goalward. Heath then delivered a fine cross for Lukas Franzen-Jones but keeper Phillips just reached the ball first.
Charlie Pitcher had been kept fairly quiet but still had plenty of running left as the game reached the final minutes and burst forward, slipping the ball to Lukas Franzen-Jones. Harry Heath had motored forward into space in the box but an opportunity for a third goal went begging as Franzen-Jones mishit his pass to Heath.
Lancing opted to play it safe in 7 minutes of added time keeping possession near Hythe’s right corner flag, winning a couple of corners which allowed them to retain possession and see the game out.
Lancing had to maintain a disciplined and strong defence to keep Hythe at bay. They were an attacking force but their finishing was not good enough to severely test Louis Rogers. He was put under pressure from the long throw ins and a number of free-kicks but his handling was sound throughout. Lancing made the most of their limited scoring chances.
There was an almost unanimous cry for Alex Laing to be selected as Player of the Match. He defended extremely well but took the opportunity to break forward at speed whenever possible. It was his determination that led to both goals. So to Alex went the medallion.
Lancing now move up to 3rd.place on 41 points level with Cray Valley in second, who have a superior goal difference. Sittingbourne are two points below but with a game in hand on Lancing.
Lancing Starting XI:
Louis Rogers, Alex Laing (Capt.), Jack Meeres, Sam Bull, Charlie Gibson (Dan Howick 59), Andrew Briggs, George Taggart, Charlie Bennett (Alex Plummer,76), Charlie Pitcher, Ben Pope (Harry Heath,82), Lukas Franzen-Jones.
Unused subs: Eliot Jenks, Knory Scott.