Folkestone 1, Lowestoft 4
Lowestoft clinched a Ryman Premier Division play-off place with a hard-fought comeback win against ten-man Folkestone today in Kent.
Blues will now travel to Bury on Tuesday after booking their place in the sudden death shoot out for the chance to clinch a Conference South promotion spot behind champions Sutton.
Lowestoft needed a win in their regular season finale to confirm their play-off place but trailed to James Dryden's half volley just after half-time. Vics' defender Josh Burchell picked up a second yellow card prior to the hour mark and the Blues capitalised on their numerical advantage. Matt Nolan levelled before ex-Norwich City duo Adrian Forbes and Andrew Cave-Brown pounced from close range with Russell Stock sealing the win in stoppage time.
Lowestoft lost to Bury 1-0 on Easter Monday, but joint boss Ady Gallagher is drawing plenty of inspiration from the goal less draw in the reverse fixture earlier this season ahead of their play-off semi-final.
'We'll look forward to it,' he said. 'They'll be chuffed with home advantage but we played well there in the league game. We mixed the team up in the Suffolk Premier Cup game but in the league it was 0-0 and in the second half I thought we were excellent without getting our rewards. We'll certainly need to play better than this to go any further.
'We never underestimated these - I just don't think we played particularly well and when you miss a glut of chances, we suffered a sucker punch. I felt there was a lack of urgency in the first half and a lack of drive.
'It's never easy coming away from home. The pitch was dry and bobbly but we carved out a few chances. Once we got one, I always felt confident we would go on and win the game. They got a man sent off which helped us but sometimes you can be a bit too direct against ten and that plays into their hands. I was pleased with how we kept trying to pass the ball through midfield and we started to get in behind them around the sides and get crosses in and that paid off for us in the end.'
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Andy Reynolds' misjudged Niall Jackson's early inswinging corner but Vics' defender Frankie Chappell was caught unawares inside the six yard box.
Curtis Haynes-Brown then had to race across to block Michael Everitt after the home skipper tricked his way past Adam Smith. Dale Cockrill's perfectly-timed run sprung Folkestone's offside trap but Joe Francis was unable to control the cut back.
Francis then picked fellow wide man Lubomir Guentchev but his miscue bounced up and over eight yards out. Nolan sidefooted home on 23 minutes, but the assistant's flag cut short away celebrations.
Reynolds grasped Josh Vincent's half volley at his near post after the Vics' full-back was allowed to sneak in behind Town's defence. Nolan then scuffed the best chance of the contest to that point on 29 minutes with only Jack Delo to beat eight yards out after latching onto Scott Mitchell's lob.
Liam Dickson kicked Guentchev's cut back behind inside his own box with the visitors' now beginning to exert territorial pressure.
City old boy Adrian Forbes replaced Jamie Forshaw five minutes before the interval with the frontman a major injury doubt to face Bury after damaging his hamstring. Delo confidently grabbed Francis' rasping snapshot before tipping over Nolan's looping header from Mitchell's free kick in a spell of sustained Blues' dominance.
Forbes then sidefooted over six yards out in stoppage time with Lowestoft players queuing up at the back post. Dryden shocked the visitors on 49 minutes with a superb dipping half volley past Reynolds from fully 20 yards after exchanging passes with James Everitt.
Burchell was dismissed for a second yellow card on 59 minutes for a rash lunge on Guentchev. Forbes barrelled his way through but clipped wide with the Blues' front pair foraging on scraps against the ten-men.
Second half arrival Andrew Fisk was unable to re-direct Mitchell's drilled cross goalwards with Lowestoft desperate for some inspiration. Mitchell's guided strike from the edge of the area flew just over on 70 minutes after Guenchev had teased his marker wide on the right.
Nolan dragged the Blues' level with a near post flick from Guentchev's cross that brought first team coach Craig Fleming to his feet in the Main Stand.
Forbes edged the visitors in front on 78 minutes with a trademark close range header from Fisk's flighted cross and Cave-Brown put the result beyond doubt when he swept home Guentchev's low cross on 88 minutes. Stock replaced Nolan in stoppage time before adding a close range fourth with his first touch deep in stoppage time.
• Folkestone: Delo, Vincent, Burchell, Jackson (Guiver 75), Chappell, Webb, M Everitt, Dickson, J Everitt, Dryden, Smith. Subs (not used): Bates, Hardwick.
• Bookings: Burchell, Dryden
• Sending off: Burchell
• Goal: Dryden (49).
• Lowestoft: Reynolds, Cave-Brown, Smith, Gaughran, Curtis-Brown, Mitchell, Cockrill, Guentchev, Francis (Fisk 63), Forshaw (Forbes 42), Nolan (Stock 90). Subs (not used): Ainsley, Crane.
• Goals: Nolan (71), Forbes (78), Cave-Brown (88), Stock (90).
• Referee: M Webb
• Attendance: 244