Horndean (The Deans)1 v Lancing 1

Monday 1.04.2024

Attendance: 138

A 1 p.m k.o was agreed to try and beat the weather with rain forecast. In the event it was a largely sunny afternoon. The pitch was heavy and soon began to cut up but not greatly. Lancing faced the uphill slope in the first half and brought back into the starting line -up, Dan Howick and Destiny Ojo.

Lancing opted for a change in their usual playing style as the pitch did not allow for any pretty one -touch football. Both sides looked to drive long high balls putting defenders under pressure and as a result the ball was in the air a lot to be met with headers. Early pressure by Lancing forced Horndean to head backwards and behind for a corner. The ball in reached Jack Meeres at the far post but the ball came off him and behind for a goal kick.

Louis Rogers was the first of the keepers to be tested as Horndean broke clear down their left forcing a save from Rogers down to his left. Ben Pope was proving to be potent force as target man, winning good aerial battles and working hard to come off his marker and lay the ball off to support from midfield. Lancing were showing some good build up play and advancing themselves into forward positions by making the ball do the work. Ben Pope made good progress down the left , combining with Lukas Franzen-Jones who laid the ball off to Andrew Briggs but his effort on goal was sliced wide. Another good spell of possession produced a shooting opportunity for George Taggart who curled his shot over the bar. A superb long-range pass from Sam Bull wide on Lancing’s left reached Destiny Ojo on the right flank. He cut in along the bye-line but saw his cross cut out for a corner.

A misplaced Lancing clearance opened up a run down the right by Horndean and Lancing were fortunate to escape punishment when The Deans forwards were guilty of two hurried mis kicks in front of goal.

Deans’ keeper Cameron Scott kept his side from conceding with a save at full stretch putting the ball over the bar to keep out a well struck free-kick from Andrew Briggs. Louis Rogers had to deal with a couple more efforts on goal. The first needed a good save but the next lacked the power to trouble him.

Destiny Ojo got clear of his man and delivered an inviting cross into the box but Scott was able to get his hands to the ball. A foul on striker Connor Duffin gave The Deans a free kick just outside the box. The ball flew at pace past the wall straight at Louis Rogers who could only deal with it with a two-fisted punch up and over the bar.

The first of a number of contested decisions by referee Martin Bloor occurred late in the first half when Lukas Franzen-Jones was brought down as he turned in the box. Mr.Bloor waved away Lancing appeals. A spot of misfortune denied what looked to be a header from Dan Howick heading into goal only for it to strike Lukas Franzen-Jones, who, unintentionally, prevented the ball crossing the line.

Lancing came close to taking the lead shortly before half time-time when a George Taggart shot, which was heading for the top corner brought another good save from keeper Scott.

As the half extended into added time, an unsavoury incident took place which had a dramatic effect on the game. George Taggart and burly striker Connor Duffin both slid into a tackle. What happened next was not completely clear to me, as the clash took place on the far side of the pitch but it looked as if Duffin’s reaction was to take some retribution on Taggart. I say no more but this led to a melee with players from both sides coming together with pushing and jostling until everyone calmed down. Wha t was abundantly clear was that keeper Scott raced from his goal to the other half of the pitch to get physically involved. The person furthest from the melee was Dan Howick, just in front of the stand where we were sat. He ran to join everyone else but, so far as I could tell, did nothing to justify what happened next, which was to be given his marching orders by Mr.Bloor, along with George Taggart and Conor Duffin,(he explained to me after the game that both were off the ground making the tackle and this constituted dangerous play). Whilst one can understand red cards, based on his interpretation of what he believed he saw (although he gave a free kick to Lancing), the red card awarded to Dan Howick defied any logical explanation, especially given that keeper Scott escaped with only a caution.

So, Lancing faced a further 45 minutes with nine men versus the ten of the Deans. The odds were stacked against them but it was clear from the restart that they were not going to be demoralised by the referee’s decisions.

There was another fortunate escape for Lancing when Harry Jackson put the ball over from a couple of yards but it was Lancing who were refusing to sit back and defend. They were looking for three points.

Destiny Ojo was using his pace and good ball control to take on defenders, cutting in on goal and seeing his shot blocked. Lukas Franzen-Jones evaded a couple of tackles, setting up Charlie Bennett who was unable to make a solid contact with ball. Franzen-Jones had a shot saved with the ball being recovered and slipped to him but he put the ball narrowly wide. He then came close to intercepting a back pass. Destiny Ojo had a couple of efforts on goal but off target. With one man short the front men had to lend a hand in defence and this was typified by Franzen-Jones back in the penalty area making a block to prevent a shot hitting the target.

Lancing were stunned by the award of a penalty against them but relieved to see sub Jordan Pile put his spot kick over the bar. Lancing were aggrieved when minutes later Destiny Ojo was brought down as he was making a run along the bye-line towards goal. Referee Bloor was unmoved. It was Sam Bulls turn to perform heroics as he twice made blocks to keep the ball out.

As the game was approaching the final quarter Lancing’s attacking play was punished as a pass intended for Destiny Ojo was intercepted. Lancing were opened up in the defensive gap down their right from where a pin-point cross picked out Zackary Willett with time and space in the box to execute a sublime finish into the top corner for his 21st league goal

Lancing were throwing men forward with the risk of counterattacks. Twice Louis Rogers had to get down low to bravely take the ball from runners into the box. Lancing made their first substitution on 79 minutes with Knory Scott replacing Ben Pope who had worked tirelessly as Lancing’s target man up front. Fresh legs were needed to bolster Lancing’s final efforts to rescue something from the game. Noel Fisher came on for Destiny Ojo on 81 minutes and, on 85 minutes, Alex Plummer for Andrew Briggs, who added covered so much ground.

Noel Fisher and Knory Scott were quick to get into the game but it was Fisher who was to have the decisive influence, coming away with the ball from a strong challenge and having the presence of mind to set up Lukas Franzen-Jones. Franzen-Jones showed again why he is Lancing’s leading scorer, hitting the ball on the turn low into the far corner for his 20th league goal of the season.

Lancing were not content to try and close the game up but their stamina and fitness helped them to pile on the pressure until the dying seconds as they looked for a winner. The ball was close to crossing the line with a strong suspicion of handball. There was a desperate scramble by the Deans to clear the ball from the six-yard box as Lancing continued to battle away. A couple of corners were earned but The Deans were able to hold out.

I can only echo the sentiments of Chairman Barry Sutton describing the players as “heroes each and every one” and equally feel ”so proud of the boys”

This point moved Lancing up to sixth place, two points behind Three Bridges, who have a game in hand. Herne Bay are in hot pursuit with one point fewer, but on the same number of games.

Only 4 games left, two at home and two away. Squeaky bum time, as the saying goes.

We were spoilt for choice when it came to selecting Player of the Match. You could make a case for each player but, in the end, we were impressed, not only by his performance in today’s game, but in his character to pick himself up after one or two unfortunate lapses against Chichester .So we were delighted to be able to choose Sam Bull.

Dave Wilmott

Lancing Starting XI:

Louis Rogers, Dan Howick, Jack Meeres, Sam Bull, Nic D’Arienzo, Andrew Briggs (Alex Plummer 85), George Taggart, Charlie Bennett, Destiny Ojo (Noel Fisher 81), Ben Pope (Knory Scott 79), Lukas Franzen-Jones (CAPT.)

Unused subs:

Leon Fisher, Charlie Gibson.