Lowestoft Town 1 Gloucester City 1 – Weary Lowestoft forced to face up to pain of relegation
- Credit: James Bass
As Lowestoft's players sunk to the turf, the Blues looked a tired football club in more ways than one.
Lowestoft's 1-1 draw at home to Gloucester had fallen short of what was required thanks to Brackley's win over Tamworth.
It proved the final nail in the coffin of this season for a club that's been worn down by being placed in a division they shouldn't really be in.
The seeds of this relegation were laid before a ball had even been kicked in step two of the non league pyramid after their promotion in 2014. When the Blies were switched from what was then Conference South to North it set them on an inevitable path that was always likely to end in relegation.
A sizeable chunk of the playing budget had to be siphoned off into making 42 away trips that most teams in their division have to do once or twice a season.
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Manager Ady Gallagher quite rightly decided to focus on a small group of players to maintain the quality level needed in the hope that injuries and suspensions wouldn't take their toll.
It was a gamble that needed to be taken...but it didn't pay off.
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When you have a bigger budget to get out of the Ryman Premier than to remain in National League North there's only ever going to be one conclusion and the inevitable happened on Saturday.
What makes it all the more frustrating for Blues fans is that it need not have come to this. Going into the final week of the season Lowestoft needed just two points from two home games to ensure survival.
Losing 3-0 to second-placed North Ferriby was understandable but it was the lack of intensity around Lowestoft's approach that was the most concerning aspect.
The urgency returned for the first half hour on Saturday and relief followed when Danny Crow smashed the ball home in the 25th minute after Jake Reed's initial effort had been saved.
But the momentum couldn't be maintained and even before half-time there were signs the visitors, who had nothing to play for but pride, weren't out of it.
The killer blow arrived in the 66th minute. Harry Kyprianou, a pillar of consistency for the Blues since his arrival on loan from Southend, made an uncharacteristic mistake as his clearing header fell into the path of substitute Louis Robles, who gratefully received the gift.
The Lowestoft players visibly wilted and only an Adam Smith free kick came close to finding the winner they so desperately needed.
By this time news had filtered through of Brackley taking the lead and an air or resignation enveloped the Blues.
Cruelly there was a brief hubbub behind the goal raising hopes Tamworth had found an equaliser 167 miles away but those hopes proved unfounded.
The Lowestoft players were on their hands and knees at the final whistle. Not just exhausted by the 90 minutes of play but exhausted by the circumstances they had been placed in for the past two seasons.
A return to the Ryman League Premier awaits but sooner rather than later a discussion needs to be had about the club's long term goal. Do they really want to return to the higher echelons of the non league pyramid and the financial commitment and travel this entails? Or has the club hit its ceiling and found its place in the non league hierarchy?
Those debates can wait a few days as the disappointment sinks in.
But whatever happens the club needs to rediscover its eroded hunger if they are to compete even at step three next season.