Pitching In Isthmian League

South East Division Saturday 27.04.2024

Hythe Town 1 v Lancing 1

Attendance 367

A coach, not quite full, but conveying 20 or so supporters plus Players, manager, coaches, physio made the long journey to Reachfields Stadium for the final match of the season against Hythe Town. Add to that several other supporters who made their own way there and who helped to boost the home attendance, a fact acknowledged by Hythe’s chairman.

You could be forgiven for thinking that, with their 6th place secure, The Lancers might simply go through the motions to see the season out. But that would be a disservice to players who have shown superb commitment and pride in wearing the Lancing colours. For this game, not the Yellow and Blue but the all blue of Pallex.

Hythe Town had been experiencing a dismal run of 11 successive defeats, having lost some experienced players, their manager, after the loss to Beckenham, with a new manager in charge and, of necessity, having to blood some of their under 18 squad. There was still a solid core of experience, with centre backs Liam smith and long throw in expert 6 ft.4 in. (at least), Jack Steventon. Strength in midfield was provided by Josh Wisson. Those of us who made the long trip to Sheppey United for the midweek game on 24.10.2023 may remember his superb volley, which set Sheppey on their way to a 3-0 win. Add to these, the dangerous forward play from Bradley Schafer, all of which meant that victory over Hythe would not be a forgone conclusion. They might find themselves in trouble if any player became injured as they were only able to field a bare eleven. The surface of the pitch would also be a factor.

David Altendorff kept faith with the eleven who started the game against Ashford. It soon became clear that defenders would be put to the test to cope with the conditions as both goalkeepers were sending searching long passes into the opposition final third. Lukas Franzen-Jones was working hard to try and control the ball with his back to goal but was losing the aerial battle to Steventon, towering above him. Ben Pope was having more success winning the ball regularly and flicking the ball forward.

Lancing did vary their approach and showed excellent control across the back four, making very few mistakes in controlling an unpredictable bounce.

Knory Scott had the first effort on goal in the second minute but a defender was able to get his body in the way. The first evidence of the unpredictably of the surface came when Louis Rogers was almost caught out by an awkward bounce but he showed a nice piece of skill to get control of the ball.

Bradley Schafer tried his luck with a volley but was well wide. Shay Matthews, continued to play with confidence in only his second game since his return, and went on a promising run, slaloming past a couple of defenders before a foul brought him down. Lukas Franzen-Jones drove the ball wide from the free-kick. Noel Fisher and Nic D’Arienzo combined on the left with D’Arienzo delivering a cross which was just beyond Lukas Franzen-Jones before being headed behind fora corner.

Lancing’s best opportunity fell to Franzen-Jones on 25 minutes. Ben Pope won possession and set him up but his shot was straight at keeper Sam Flisher. Hythe came close with Steventon getting his head to cross from a free-kick but only able to put the ball wide of the upright.

Josh Wisson showed his shooting power with a free-kick from 25 yards which was narrowly clear of the cross bar. Lancing had a couple more efforts on goal from Lukas Franzen-Jones and Andrew Briggs but nothing to seriously trouble Flisher. The half ended with both teams showing a lot of honest endeavour but with neither goalkeeper being caused to much anxiety. Noel Fisher and Knory Scott were showing some clever skill on the ball but without being able to create many openings.

The second half began with Lancing having a lucky escape when a scramble in the box ended with the ball being hoofed over the bar from close range. Bradley Schafer continued to be Hythe’s main man in and around the penalty area, rising well to a header but clearing the cross bar, swiftly followed by a run parallel to the edge of the box but finishing disappointingly, again putting the ball over the bar.

Sam Bull hit the ball on the turn causing Flisher to fumble the ball with Lukas Franzen-Jones just close enough to get a toe to the ball but not able to keep it from clearing the bar. Nic D’Arienzo came close with a header from an Andrew Briggs free-kick and then he showed that he, too, can reach some distance from a throw in.  But Hythe were able to clear the ball as it came into the six -yard box. Lukas Franzen-Jones continued to be frustrated after being put in good shooting position by Knory Scott only to have his shot deflected wide for a corner.

Lancing made their first substitution on 69 minutes bringing on the lively Callum Erskine for Shay Matthews.

Another long ranging throw in from Steventon was only cleared as far as Oliver Bussey but a good chance was wasted as he cleared the cross bar.

Knory Scott found himself being given a caution for what looked to us, close to the incident, as very good tackle to prevent Schafer breaking forward but referee Joe McKay, who had handled the game well, despite a lot of verbal from the home dug out, saw it differently.

Charlie Gibson then came on for Alex Plummer. Plummer had joined forces successfully in midfield with Andrew Briggs and the pair had done an excellent job in containing a strong Hythe midfield.

It was then the turn of Hythe’s Oscar Web to be cautioned after a foul on Ben Pope. The resultant free-kick from Andrew Briggs found its way to Ben Pope who finished with aplomb to give Lancing the lead on 78 minutes. Ben Pope was on the receiving end of another nasty foul, this time from Harry Rowland ,earning him a caution.

Alfie Knight was given his senior debut replacing Knory Scott on 86 minutes. Lancing’s hopes of seeing out the remaining few minutes without conceding were dashed on 88 minutes when a promising attack down the left by Noel Fisher ended with him being robbed of the ball and from here the ball was worked down into the Lancing box. Jack Meeres and Sam Bull took a tumble as they came together attempting to clear the ball and in so doing succeeded in causing the Hythe forward to also hit the turf. No hesitation from Mr. McKay.  Penalty !!!

Liam Smith made no mistake from the spot to earn his side a share of the points.

So, some satisfaction from Hythe in ending their run of defeats. Lancing completed April without defeat but harboured a sense of disappointment at the manner of conceding so late. In reality. neither side did quite enough to secure maximum points.

It is hard to determine what effect the loss of Howick, Bennett, Taggart, Pitcher, Ojo and Laing had for the last few games. Those who stepped into their shoes did not let themselves or the team down. David Altendorff had the confidence to introduce some under 18s into the squad and it was encouraging to see them gain some valuable experience.

From my personal point of view, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching these players. There have been changes in personnel as the season progressed and it is always hard to say goodbye to players who played an important part earlier in the season but I fully respect the manager’s judgement (for example bringing in Louis Rogers for Alieu Secka) and, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating!!

To finish one place off the place off zone is an incredible achievement and management, coaches and players deserve our sincere congratulations.

Also big thanks to our supporters who have been steadfast and loyal and have played their part in a big way.

A greater number able to participate in the vote for Player of the Match. Andrew Briggs once again in the reckoning but a clear majority impressed with Ben Popes ability to win the aerial battles, for his hard graft, and for his well taken goal. So, Congratulations go to Ben.


Lancing Starting XI:

Louis Rogers, Shay Matthews (Callum Erskine 69), Jack Meeres, Sam Bull, Nic D’Arienzo, Andrew Briggs, Alex Plummer (Charlie Gibson 76), Knory Scott (Alfie Knight 86), Ben Pope, Noel Fisher, Lukas Franzen-Jones (Capt.)

Unused subs:

Leon Fisher, Rory Marashi