South East Division
Saturday 3rd.February 2024
Lancing 0 v Herne Bay 3
Herne Bay have proved to be something of a bogey team for Lancing. The sides met twice in season 2021/22, at the end of which Herne Bay earned promotion, winning both games, the one at Culver Road being a heavy 6-1 defeat for the Lancers. Their stay at a higher level only lasted one season. They are now managed by ex-Wales international and very experienced former professional, Steve Lovell. When the sides met in October last year, Herne Bay were in 4th place, 5 points ahead of Lancing, although they had played two games more, and secured a 3-1 victory at the MBS Stadium.
Lancing were expecting a tough game and that proved to be so. Charlie Bennett made his return from injury and was in the starting eleven. Knory Scott had also recovered and was on the bench. A new injury kept skipper Alex Laing out of the team and Charlie Pitcher was not yet fit enough to return.
Lancing soon found themselves on the wrong side of referee Joel Lamping’s decisions and this put them under early pressure from a couple of free-kicks. But Lancing were able to defend successfully and settle into some composed play from the back. Charlie Gibson was prominent on Lancing’s left and was able to set up some good attacking forays, linking up well with Lukas Franzen-Jones and Ben Pope. Pope was on the receiving end of a good attacking move initiated by Gibson but a robust physical challenge prevented any progress. Herne Bay were dangerous on the counterattack and a breakaway down the right ended with a cross to the far side which Dan Howick was able to head clear. Gil Carvalho tried his luck from distance with a well struck shot on target but into the safe hands of Louis Rogers.
Noel Fisher broke in from the right, picked out Lukas Franzen-Jones on the left with a fine pass. Franzen-Jones crossed to Ben Pope but the ball came off his chest and was easily gathered by keeper Harry Brooks. Lancing’s left flank was their most productive. Charlie Gibson twice got into good positions behind the back line. He hit a low drive towards the near upright which was just kept out and followed this with a deep cross to the far post which was headed clear.
Louis Rogers was a focal point spraying accurate passes to both flanks but Bay forwards got wise to this and were closing him down quickly. Rogers displayed some clever ball skills, confidently pirouetting away from challenges, which caused a few jitters amongst some of us more nervy supporters. He almost came unstuck when robbed of the ball, but the referee’s whistle came to his rescue.
Noel Fisher showed his ability to take on defenders and finished a great run with a ball laid into Ben Pope but The Bay defence, well marshalled by experienced skipper Liam Friend, a veteran of 550 games for Folkestone Invicta, allowed Lancing no room to apply the finishing touch.
With 29 minutes gone Lancing suffered the blow of losing Ben Pope to an injury, Knory Scott coming in on the left flank and Lukas Franzen-Jones moving into the centre. Lancing were enjoying a good spell as the half reached the final quarter. Pressure on the visitors’ goal led to a couple of blocked close-range efforts and a good save low down at his upright from Brooks.
Lancing survived a scare when Sam Bull conceded possession with a potential clear run on goal but Jack Meeres was quick to spot the danger putting the ball out of play for a throw in. Play developed from this leading to the ball being headed clear from the Lancing goal-line by Charlie Bennett.
Bay kept up the pressure with some accurate long balls and were driving into the Lancing box. Andrew Briggs and George Taggart were working hard to get the ball forward. Taggart did well to intercept a pass and set Charlie Bennett in behind but his cross was hit behind the goal.
A wild clearance from a Bay defender on the left was hit high skywards dropping into his penalty area putting Brooks under pressure from Lukas Franzen-Jones but the keeper was able to punch the ball clear.
A pretty even first half with neither side able to create any clear-cut chances. Lancing were on the front foot as the second half got underway. An accurate long throw from Louis Rogers found Charlie Bennett, who controlled the ball and turned swiftly switching the ball to Knory Scott. Scott’s run took him to the by-line earning a corner when his cross was cut out.
George Taggart created space to hit a low drive from distance, but Brooks was able to save comfortably. A good flowing move from Lancing opened up space on the right with a pass to Dan Howick which was running close to the bye-line. Howick gave chase but appeared to pull up short, worryingly appearing to suggest a pulled muscle. However, Howick was able to continue and see the game out. Another sweeping move saw Howick deliver a cross field pass to Charlie Gibson, who opened up the Bay defence with a fine pass putting Lukas Franzen-Jones through, but he fell foul of the offside flag.
The deadlock was broken on 60 minutes. A corner was cleared from the Lancing box but fell invitingly to Harrison Pont who drove it back towards the goal but it rebounded back to him off a defender. His follow-up effort flew powerfully into Louis Rogers’ top right corner with the keeper at full stretch to try and keep it out. Coming after an encouraging start to the second half this was deflating for the home side with the opposite effect on the visitors.
Harry Heath was brought on for Noel Fisher and, shortly afterwards, Bay came close to increasing their lead. Gil Carvalho hit the ball across the goalmouth just wide of the far upright, just out of reach of Michael Salako’s outstretched leg.
Lancing were struggling to make much headway and were forced onto the defensive. Sam Bull had to react quickly to prevent a threat on the Lancing goal and this was quickly followed by fine tackle from Jack Meeres with the ball going out for a corner. The corner was cleared but only as far as a few yards from the edge of the box, where Frankie Smith was conveniently positioned. He wasted no time in firing the ball back in towards a packed area. It seemed to take a couple of deflections before hitting the back of the net.
Eliot Jenks was immediately introduced for Charlie Gibson as Lancing looked to add to their attacking strength with 72 minutes gone. But three minutes later, Lancing’s task became an almost impossible one, as Kane Rowland pounced on header out from a corner, the ball dropping at his feet before ending up in the goal.
Although the odds were against them Lancing mounted a last-ditch effort to salvage some respectability. Andrew Briggs was working hard to create an opening, winning a corner which failed to find a Lancing head. A clever back heel from Charlie Bennett provided Harry Heath with an opportunity to strike for goal but the ball was kept out for a corner. A good delivery from Heath forced keeper Brooks to palm behind for another corner. But Lancing were unable to capitalise on the dead ball. 6 minutes of added time was signalled, and Lancing continued to press forward. Harry Heath’s pace was troubling the Bay defence and as he sped towards the goal, Brooks was quickly off his line and able to spread himself to block Heath’s shot. Heath then left his marker for dead with a superb turn, made a determined run towards the box, beating a couple of defenders before being felled by Harrison Pont, for which he earned a caution. Time ran out for Lancing.
In the final analysis, Lancing could not quarrel with the result. They enjoyed some good spells of attacking play in the first half without looking likely to score. The loss of Ben Pope was a blow but two well struck goals knocked the stuffing out of Lancing and the third added salt to the wound. The Bay defence were well organised and very strong.
This, I feel sure, will serve as a motivating factor to get Lancing back on track.
Mascot Jackson Mockford , who clearly enjoyed his experience and was picture of happiness, chose Lukas Franzen-Jones as his Player of the Match.
Lancing starting XI:
Louis Rogers, Dan Howick, Jack Meeres, Sam Bull, Charlie Gibson (Eliot Jenks 72) Andrew Briggs, George Taggart, Charlie Bennett, Noel Fisher (Harry Heath 60), Ben Pope (Knory Scott 29), Lukas Franzen-Jones
Unused subs : Alex Plummer, Leon Fisher