Battle-hardened Lowestoft Town are showing real improvement in Vanarama Conference North
- Credit: Richard Land/Focus Images Ltd
It is often suggested it is grim up north and for most of their first season in the Conference, Lowestoft Town have tended to agree.
With only two wins away from Crown Meadow all season, the Trawlerboys have found life tough on the road. When they arrived in Harrogate on Saturday to face strong winds and squally rain they could have expected another tough afternoon.
And so it proved. But this Lowestoft side is a different beast to the one which started the season.
Several months ago, the Trawlerboys may have folded under some of the early pressure they faced at the CNG Stadium, but now they are battle-hardened to the Conference North, they sucked it up and came out fighting.
Playing into a strong head wind, Lowestoft took the lead on the half hour when Shaun Bammant was brought down in the home side's penalty area and the reliable Jack Ainsley strode up from right back to tuck home yet another spot-kick – his 12th of the term.
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Ainsley, who linked well with Lee Smith all afternoon, also fired over from the edge of the box as the impressive Blues looked to extend their lead before the interval. But they did have to call on their keeper Ashlee Jones, to brilliantly deny Paul Clayton moments later.
After a disappointing first half, Harrogate came out on the front foot in the second half and Jones was quickly forced into another impressive save when he tipped Jordan Thewlis' volley onto the post.
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With Andrew Fisk in typically tenacious form in midfield and Bammant leading the line well as a lone striker, Town were largely unthreatened.
But the game was defined by a crucial four-minute spell in the final quarter of the game.
On 73 minutes, Bammant played in Chris Henderson who had cut in from the left. The winger beat the last man to go clean through and with plenty of time fired a left-footed shot towards goal from 15 yards out.
Home keeper Peter Crook stuck out a foot to deflect the ball over the bar and after surviving the huge chance, the home side pulled level on 77 minutes.
A fine run down the left by full back Louie Swain saw his pinpoint cross headed home from close range by Paddy McLaughlin to set up an exciting finish.
Fortunately for the Trawlerboys, Harrogate were unable to build on their equaliser due to a stoppage signaled by referee Ian Turner who went down with cramp shortly after the goal.
'You're not fit to referee,' sang the home fans to the amusement of the man in black, who graciously responded with a wave.
Despite their best efforts, Harrogate could not create another decent opportunity to take all three points. As the Lowestoft bus headed south, there was undoubtedly satisfaction at another point gained on the road to safety, but also some disappointment it was not all three – a sign of just how far this improving club has come.