Pitching In Isthmian League

South East Division Saturday 17.02.2024

Lancing 4 v Phoenix Sports 2




Both sides came into this fixture looking over their shoulders but from diametrically opposite perspectives. Phoenix, lying third from bottom on 20 points, were desperate to improve on their recent run of only 2 points from their last six games. Draws against bottom team Beckenham and East Grinstead were all they had to show for their efforts during this period and this included a loss against Erith and Belvedere who are breathing down their neck with 19 points.

Lancing were sitting in 4th place on 47 points with Herne Bay in 5th place on 43 points but with a game in hand. Behind them lay Sheppey with 40 points but with two games in hand. Lancing had suffered defeats against Herne Bay and Sevenoaks with a solitary victory against East Grinstead in their last three games and were anxious to maintain some daylight between their position and those clubs in hot pursuit and keep up their quest for a place in the play-off zone.

The sides last met in October when Lancing came away with three points, thanks to goals from George Taggart and Charlie Bennett but had to endure a nervy last 18 minutes, having been reduced to 10 men following the rather harsh sending off of Kyle Sim, after two yellow cards.

Lancing welcomed back skipper Alex Laing, after missing the Sevenoaks game through injury, Dan Howick making way. Otherwise, David Altendorff kept faith with the same starting line-up, young Noel Fisher retaining his place on the left of Lancing’s midfield. Before the game started there was a minute’s applause in recognition and celebration of Club Vice President Jill Carlberg who sadly died on Wednesday.

There was an early fluttering of Lancing supporters’ chests when a through pass sent a Phoenix forward in on goal with him tumbling in the box but referee Scott Crowhurst was well positioned to wave away claims for a penalty. He was also well able to spot a tug on Lukas Franzen-Jones by Leo Mazzone to prevent him from running clear from the half way line. It was not to be a particularly auspicious afternoon for Mazzone as he received a yellow card with the game only 9 minutes old and he was later to suffer an injury forcing him to hobble off after 45 minutes to be replaced by Joe Thomas.

Alex Laing was having a tough time trying to contain Emmanuel Oladejo and there were some strong tackles going in from both players. Lukas Franzen-Jones was again on the receiving end of an over robust challenge from behind and another free-kick was awarded. Franzen-Jones was not deterred by this and continued to be a threat in and around the box. His steadfastness was to pay off on 21 minutes. He judged the flight of a long punt from Louis Rogers, as it reached the Phoenix box, perfectly, allowing the ball to drop over his shoulder before catching keeper Andrew Walker off his line and lifting the ball over him into the unguarded net.

Phoenix came close to creating a scoring opportunity with a free-kick, which fizzed across the Lancing six-yard box and out of play with no Phoenix player able to get a touch. George Taggart and Andrew Briggs were at full stretch to contain some powerful forward bursts through the middle from Dexter Peter and Denzelle Olopade. Charlie Bennett was able to make some good attacking runs and having reached the edge of the box fired towards the goal only to see his shot blocked for a corner.

Knory Scott was finding space in which to link up with George Taggart and Alex Laing on Lancing’s right flank and opening up the Phoenix defence with some astute passing. Taggart found Scott free on the right and he delivered the ball to Alex Laing on an overlapping run who crossed the ball dangerously close to the Phoenix goal from where it was cleared. Knory Scott was again the architect of some good attacking play laying the ball off to Andrew Briggs some 10 yards outside the box. He came within a whisker of another superb finish as his well struck shot failed to dip in time to enter the top of the net, striking the cross bar.

Phoenix were driving the ball towards the Lancing final third but found Jack Meeres and Sam Bull in full command making good headed clearances and well timed tackles and interceptions.

Mazzone finished off a determined run with a low drive which Louis Rogers was able to get down low and save. At the other end Knory Scott raced to reach a cross from the left and keep it in play. He then cleverly nutmegged a defender and sent the ball whizzing towards the near upright from where it was cleared. Knory Scott was enjoying a good spell on the ball sending a cross towards Ben Pope which was intercepted by a defender.

Alex Laing and Oladejo continued to do battle with Laing coming off the worst in a tangle to which referee Crowhurst did not see any objection, waving away the Lancing skipper’s appeal. Some petty fouls were disrupting Lancing’s rhythm, such as a pull on George Taggart to stop him breaking clear through the middle. Andrew Briggs delivered the resultant free-kick, which was cleared wide to the Lancing left. Noel Fisher latched on to the ball, turned in onto his right and sent the ball powerfully towards the goal. It threatened to go in just under the cross bar but keeper Walker was just able to punch it away.

For all their strong play Phoenix did not come close to seriously troubling Louis Rogers, as the half ended with Lancing holding on to their one goal lead.

Knory Scott continued to torment Phoenix and twice in the opening minutes of the second half was awarded free-kicks. The second goal for Lancing came on 53 minutes and it fell to Lancing’s leading scorer Lukas Franzen-Jones. George Taggart slipped the ball through for Franzen-Jones to pick his spot with a calm finish. Four minutes later Lancing were awarded a penalty when Charlie Bennett was brought down as he was on a run to the bye-line. Andy Walker dived the right way but the power in Lukas Franzen-Jones spot kick was too much for him.

Lancing made their first substitution on 61 minutes with Dan Howick replacing Alex Laing and he was soon in the action having been put clear down the right before hitting a cross into the box which had Ben Pope at full stretch but the ball just eluded him. Lukas Franzen-Jones then took his leave to an appreciative cheer from the Lancing supporters with Charlie Pitcher able to come on after an absence through injury.

Phoenix gave themselves some hope on 66 minutes, Daniel Duncanson capitalising on a defensive mix-up leaving him with a simple loft over Louis Rogers stranded from his goal line.

Noel Fisher and Charlie Bennett combined on Lancing’s left to put Charlie Pitcher clear winning a corner as his cross was put behind. Dan Howick got his head to the corner but got underneath it. Charlie Pitcher then created the opening for Ben Pope to end a barren spell since his Ramsgate goal with Lancing’s fourth on 76 minutes.

Lancing’s final substitution brought on Charlie Gibson for George Taggart on 77 minutes. A minute later Phoenix added some respectability to the score line when Denzelle Olopade managed to get a touch to a free-kick driven hard and low into the six-yard from wide on the left to reduce the deficit to two goals. Lancing came close to increasing their lead when Ben Pope won the ball and sent a cross towards Charlie Pitcher lunging in at the far post but unable to get a good contact on the ball.

Phoenix had not given up and a low drive looked to be heading goal-wards until deflected for a corner. Plenty of height in the box was a real threat but Louis Rogers was able to force his way through a ruck of players to reach high and collect the ball.

Phoenix conceded another free kick when Noel Fisher won the ball in his own half and was making strides into the Phoenix half until brought down. Lancing were looking to finish strongly with Charlie Gibson linking up with Knory Scott and trying his luck from the edge of the box but having his shot deflected wide for a corner. Ben Pope came close to getting a header on goal from an Andrew Briggs free-kick shortly before the final whistle blew.

This win leaves Lancing in 4th place on 50 points with Herne Bay just behind in 5th on 46 but with a game in hand. There is a 9 point gap with Chichester in 6th place on 41 points with the same number of games as Lancing (27).

Phoenix have plenty of pace and power and it is perhaps surprising to see them in a struggle to avoid the drop. Next up for Lancing is a trip to Jubilee Fields. When Lancing hosted Three Bridges earlier in season, they were sitting top of the table and were stunned as Lancing put 4 goals past them without reply. Since then, Bridges have slipped down the table to 8th.

Lancing have a reliable goal scorer in Lukas Franzen-Jones who is in 5th place in the League scoring charts after securing the first hat trick by a Lancing player this season. Lukas has 15 goals but Lancing have to be wary of two high scoring Bridges players. Noel Leighton has 16 goals and Ibrahim Jalloh 15.

No contest for Player of the Match, despite some excellent performances throughout the Lancing team, but three goal man Lukas Franzen-Jones was a deserved winner and proudly walked off with the match ball.


Dave Wilmott

Lancing Starting XI:

Louis Rogers, Alex Laing (Dan Howick 61), Jack Meeres, Sam Bull, Noel Fisher, Andrew Briggs, Charlie Bennett, George Taggart (Charlie Gibson 77), Knory Scott, Ben Pope, Lukas Franzen-Jones (Charlie Pitcher 65).

Unused subs: Alex Plumer, Harry Heath.