Lowestoft Town 1 Hendon 0
Lowestoft Town ground out victory over nine-man Hendon this afternoon courtesy of Michael Frew's second-half-strike to seal the runners-up spot in the Ryman League Premier Division.
The Trawlerboys were camped in the Hendon half for the majority of the contest after Kevin Maclaren and James Fisher were sent off in separate incidents midway through the first half.
Countless chances came and went with Lee Smith, Chris Henderson and Blake Saker all coming close to finding the crucial goal but the Blues had to wait until the 66th minute when Frew struck with his ninth of the season.
It was enough to ensure Lowestoft finished the campaign in second spot, ensuring they will enjoy home advantage in the play-offs, starting against East Thurrock in the semi-final on Wednesday ahead of a potential final at Crown Meadow on Monday, May 6.
Lowestoft were dealt a blow when Hakeem Araba suffered an injury in the warm-up as Frew was thrust into the starting line-up.
It didn't stop the Blues coming out of the traps quickly with Joe Francis, making his first league start since early March, looking particularly dangerous down the left flank. His drilled ball across the face of goal came close to opening the scoring shortly before Chris Henderson's goalbound shot was blocked by Fisher.
Frew came within inches of breaking the deadlock in the 13th minute when a lovely flowing move involving Greg Crane, and Francis ended with the former Corby man heading against the bar from inside the six-yard box.
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Lowestoft fans would have been forgiven for thinking it was going to be one of those days three minutes later when another Francis cross found Lee Smith at the back post but his drilled effort was inadvertently blocked on the line by team-mate, Henderson.
The game swung strongly in Lowestoft's favour in the 17th minute when Maclaren was shown a straight red card for grabbing Henderson round the throat in a melee after taking exception to a challenge from Andrew Fisk.
It got worse midway through the half for the visitors when they were reduced to nine men. The referee had no option but to give Fisher a second yellow card after a late challenge on Erkan Okay and Lowestoft were in the box seat.
The Trawlerboys tried to press home their two-man advantage but the breakthrough just wouldn't arrive. Blake Saker struck the post with a fine 20-yard strike before Henderson headed just wide after meeting Lee Smith's cross from the right.
Frew was unlucky on the stroke of half-time when he looked to be pushed in the back by Jack Connors just as he was about to nod home Lee Smith's knockback but the referee was unimpressed as Hendon held on to the break.
Lowestoft should have had a penalty at the start of the second half when Francis appeared to be shoved in the back by Howard Hall inside the penalty area but the referee waved away the home side's appeals.
Frew then missed a gilt-edged opportunity after being found by Lee Smith's clever pass but his touch failed him at the crucial moment before the former Bury man missed a decent chance himself when well placed.
The whole of Crown Meadow finally breathed a sigh of relief in the 66th minute when the breakthrough finally came. Adam Smith's looped cross saw Berkley Laurencin come off his line to try and claim but Frew nipped in ahead of the goalkeeper to glance the ball home.
Lee Smith almost made sure late on after meeting substitute Josh Dawkin's cross but his side-footed effort from 12 yards was gathered by Laurencin.
- Lowestoft Town (4-4-2): Reynolds, Saker, Williams, Crane, A Smith, Lee Smith, Fisk, Okay (Mitchell 62), Francis (Benjamin 68), Henderson (Dawkin 86), Frew. Subs not used: Eagle, Araba.
- Hendon (3-5-2): Laurencin, Flegg, Fisher, Cousins (Bennett 75), Hall, Maclaren, Cracknell, O'Leary, Connors, K Smith (McCann 68), Diedhiou. Subs not used: Bennett, Hyatt, Lewis.
- Referee: Alan Dale
- Attendance: 890