Lowestoft Town will host AFC Hornchurch in Ryman Premier final, after winning at Bognor Regis
- Credit: Stephen Lawrence/phcimages.com
Lowestoft Town will contest their fourth play-off final in four years on Monday after Jake Reed’s late winner gave the Blues victory at Nyewood Lane.
The former Dagenham & Redbridge striker’s 19th goal of the season ensured the Trawlerboys have another shot at securing Conference Football when they host AFC Hornchurch, who beat Kingstonian in the other semi-final, next week.
Lowestoft thoroughly deserved their victory despite falling behind to Terry Dodd’s opener in the 10th minute.
Curtis Haynes-Brown’s volleyed effort got them back on level terms before the break and Lowestoft laid siege to the Bognor goal in the second half before Reed struck with the kind of composed finish Blues fans have become accustomed to since his arrival at Crown Meadow.
Lowestoft were the quicker to settle on a playing surface that would put several Football League clubs to shame. In the fourth minute a hopeful ball forward by Jack Ainsley was only cleared as far as Henderson who, from the edge of the area, volleyed just wide.
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Reed then went close after being released by the lively Chris Henderson but the striker’s effort was well saved at his near post by Grant Smith. It seemed a matter of time before Lowestoft would break the deadlock but then, against the run of play, Bognor struck. Andrew Fisk hesitated in his own half before putting Sam Gaughran in trouble and when the Lowestoft defender left his backpass short it allowed dangerman Dodd in to poke the ball home off the post.
Lowestoft had been the masters of their own downfall but they continued to look sharp going forward. Henderson, who was coming in off the right flank at every opportunity, fired wide after robbing Bognor defender Craig Robson of the ball.
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Bognor still hadn’t got going but the front pairing of Dodd and Ollie Pearce were causing the Lowestoft backline all sorts of problems. Gaughran, in particular, looked jittery, and the Blues were lucky not to go further behind when Pearce glanced wide after fine wing play by Arron Hopkinson.
On several occasions Bognor tried to play the ball out from the back but in the 28th minute it led to Lowestoft’s equaliser. Excellent pressure by Reed and Henderson forced Kane Wills into conceding a corner and from this the Trawlerboys got back on level terms.
Rocks’ goalkeeper Smith could only punch Eagle’s corner out as far as Haynes-Brown who, from 10 yards, volleyed through a crowd of players into the corner. Game on.
Reed had a golden opportunity at the start of the second half when he latched on to Henderson’s defence-splitting pass but, through on goal, he shot straight at Smith. Lowestoft were really turning the screw and Bammant was next to test Smith when his close range effort forced the Rocks’ shot-stopper into an excellent save.
It was one-way traffic as Bognor couldn’t match the intensity of Lowestoft’s attacking thrusts. The goal had to come and it finally arrived in the 78th minute through that man Reed. Hinshelwood buckled under the striker’s pressure, leaving his backpass to his goalkeeper short and the Blues hitman took the ball round Smith before sliding the ball home. Henderson almost made sure of the victory with an audacious chip from 40 yards that clipped the crossbar. The Lowestoft man was at the centre of controversy late on when substitute Ben Johnson was sent off for a stamp that had the Lowestoft bench incensed. Reduced to 10 men Bognor had no answer to Lowestoft’s dominance and Craig Fleming’s men easily saw out time.