Bury Town 1 Lowestoft Town 2
- Credit: James Bass
Lowestoft Town took a giant step towards booking a place in the Ryman League Premier Division play-offs yesterday when they claimed the derby honours at Ram Meadow.
Two goals from Jack Ainslie, the second from the penalty spot, were enough to earn the Blues a priceless victory that took them up to fourth place in the table with just one match left to play. It means a victory against mid-table Harrow Borough at Crown Meadow on Saturday afternoon will guarantee a place in the end-of-season shoot-out that has provided so much heartbreak in the past.
Lowestoft could even make it if they slipped up, standing as they do a point clear of nearest challengers Hornchurch and Dulwich Hamlet, but the managerial team won't be thinking along those lines as they bid to take the club's season into overtime.
In the past the Blues have qualified for the play-offs with some comfort, only to slip up at the final hurdle. This time they appear to have timed their run just right to sneak in to the knock-out competition and will hope to capitalise, although there is obviously still work to be done at the weekend.
The visitors had to withstand some early pressure yesterday before taking the lead in the 19th minute. Robert Eagle's corner caused mayhem in the Bury box and Ainslie was on hand to volley home after Curtis Haynes-Brown's effort had come back off the woodwork.
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Lowestoft looked to build on that opener but their Suffolk rivals worked their way into the match as the half progressed and got back on level terms six minutes before the break. A cross from former Blues player Danny Cunningham was only half cleared and it fell nicely for Ross Bailey, who delighted the home fans by firing home.
The game was now finely balanced and it took a substitution early in the second half to swing the match back in Lowestoft's favour.
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Chris Henderson was brought on for Adam Smith to play on the right, and with Eagle switching to the left the visitors suddenly looked more potent going forward and quickly re-established their advantage.
Henderson it was who provided an assist as he ran into the Bury area before being brought down by Miles Smith. A penalty was awarded and after a long delay an ice-cool Ainslie converted to make it 2-1 on 63 minutes.
It was only the Blues' third spot-kick conversion from eight attempts this season - and perfectly timed.
As you would expect in a derby match Bury refused to accept their fate and piled on the pressure in the latter stages, with several frantic scrambles in the Lowestoft box.
But the visitors held out to claim a priceless victory which keeps the team's destiny very much in their own hands going into the final match of the league campaign. Only Bognor Regis and Kingstonian are assured of a place in the play-offs going into the last round of fixtures. It's between Lowestoft, Dulwich Hamlet, Hornchurch and Maidstone for the other two slots, with the fact that Dulwich host Kingstonian on Saturday adding an extra touch of spice to proceedings.
Lowesfoft Town: Jones, J Ainslie, Haynes-Brown, Okay (Fisk 71), Gleeson, Gaughran, Eagle, Jarvis, Reed (Frew 90), Bammant, Smith (Henderson 56). Not used: S Ainsley, Jessup