Lowestoft Town 2, Cray Wanderers 1
Lowestoft Town ground out another important three points at Crown Meadow this afternoon in a bad-tempered encounter against Cray Wanderers, who were reduced to nine men late on.
Two Dale Cockrill penalties were enough to keep the Blues top of the Ryman League Premier but that only told half the story.
The game burst into life when Tommy Whitnell equalised Cockrill's first half spot-kick early in the second period. Twenty players were involved in bust-up shortly after which resulted in Cray's Allan McLeod being sent off.
Lowestoft struggled to make the extra man tell but Joe Francis' introduction as a substitute proved crucial as nine minutes from time he was brought down inside the penalty area by Sam Long and the referee once again pointed to the spot.
Cockrill held his nerve to despatch the penalty but Long continued his protestations and talked himself into an early bath.
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Lowestoft managed to hold their discipline in the final moments though to register their fifth win in a row.
Lowestoft could have been in front in the sixth minute as Chris Henderson carried on where he left off on Tuesday night when he jinked in from the left flank before flashing in a cross that Lubo Guentchev was inches away from giving his side the lead.
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But Cray settled down well after that scare and could have got their noses in from themselves but Andy Reynolds showed a safe pair of hands in dealing with Leigh Bremner's smart effort from the edge of the area.
Lowestoft looked a little flat in the first period although Michael Frew's movement up front was catching the eye. The former Corby man had a glorious chance in the 18th minute when latching on to Greg Crane's knockdown but in trying to manoeuvre the ball on to his right foot in the six-yard area the chance was lost.
Frew came close again midway through the half with a clever lob that had Andy Walker scrambling but the Cray keeper managed to tip over the bar.
Lowestoft hit the front in the 26th minute and it was no surprise that Frew was at the heart of the action once again. When the striker received the ball in the penalty area, Tyrone Sterling had rush of the blood to the head and pulled him down with the referee pointing to the penalty spot, much to the frustration of the visitors.
Cockrill stepped up to confidently plant the ball to Walker's left giving the keeper no chance.
The visitors' sense of injustice threatened to spill over at times and it allowed Lowestoft to take the initiative for the rest of the first period.
Six minutes before the break the Trawlerboys should have doubled their advantage when Adam Smith's dinked cross into the penalty area found Frew completely unmarked in the area but his header was straight at Walker.
Lowestoft came out for the second half desperate to put the game to bed and Matt Nolan had a great chance to make it 2-0 after being put through but his cross-shot was cleared off the line by Sterling.
The miss proved to be costly in the 51st minute when Cray equalised against the run of play. Chris Saunders made a break from midfield to go through on goal before seeing his effort brilliantly tipped on to the post by Reynolds but the rebound fell kindly for Whitnell who stabbed the ball home.
Shortly after the visitors were reduced to 10 men when a 20-man melee resulted in McLeod receiving his marching orders but the Blues struggled to make the extra man count.
Joe Francis provided a bit of spark when he replaced Henderson and he provided the telling contribution for the Blues when the referee adjudged him to be bundled over by Sam Long in the 81st minute. An incensed Long was booked for his protests but the delay didn't prevent Cockrill from smashing the ball home from the spot.
Long carried on his protests during the celebrations before clashing with Erkan Okay and the referee had finally had enough and reduced Cray to nine men.
Lowestoft managed to see out the last eight minutes without any major alarm as the Blues made it five wins in row.
• Lowestoft Town (4-4-2): Reynolds, Okay, Mitchell, Cray, Smith, Guentchev (Forbes, 90), Fisk, Cockrill, Henderson (Francis, 72), Frew, Nolan (Forshaw, 88). Subs not used: Gaughran, Ainsley.
• Cray Wanderers (4-5-1): Walker, Long, Young, Sterling, McLeod, Saunders, Bentley, Perkins (Clark, 53), Bremner, Phillips, Whitnell (Power, 83). Subs not used: Dolby, Norton, Parkinson.
• Referee: Nic Evans
• Attendance: 633