Lowestoft Town move back into Ryman Premier play-off places with win against Billericay
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Lowestoft Town have wrestled control of their Ryman Premier play-off fate back into their own hands but had to dig deep to earn victory against Billericay Town.
Top scorer Jake Reed once again proved his worth for the Trawlerboys, the former Dagenham & Redbridge striker breaking the deadlock in the 76th minute with his 18th goal of the season.
The win moved Lowestoft up to fifth in the table and back into the play-off places, after Leiston beat Dulwich 3-2 and Maidstone lost 2-1 to Bognor Regis Town, although the top of the table remains very tight.
Lowestoft are fifth on goal difference and there is just five points between Bognor in second, on 82 points, and Dulwich in sixth, on 78.
Joint-manager Aidy Gallagher feels his players have earned their place back among the top five though, after taking seven points from four games in just eight days.
'We've been playing every other day and were against a team who clearly turned up and wanted to spoil anything they could, as we totally expected, and I think it took a lot of courage from the lads to battle the way they did and to win the game, it was fantastic,' Gallagher said.
The game started at a frantic pace, with chances at either end, and the home support were celebrating in the seventh minute after it looked like Lowestoft had taken the lead.
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A third corner in succession from Robert Eagle was punched into the net by Billericay keeper Billy Lumley but referee Nigel Phillips eventually ruled the goal out for a foul on the keeper.
The visitors then almost scored themselves straight after, but goalkeeper Ashlee Jones charged out to thwart Billericay's lively striker Evans Kouassi after a poor back-pass from Sam Gaughran.
The game then descended into something of a scrap either side of the break, but with 20 minutes remaining the home players dug deep and started to pile on the pressure to finally get the goal they needed, from a lovely move in the 76th minute.
Winger Chris Henderson made progress down the right and cut back for right-back Jack Ainsley, who calmly took a touch and curled the ball to on-loan Dereham Town centre-forward Shaun Bammant at the back post, who headed back across goal for Reed to head home from six yards and put Lowestoft 1-0 up.
The Trawlerboys battled to hang on to the three points and will be hoping Reed will be okay for today's trip to Team Bury, after being replaced in the 85th minute because of blisters. Full-back Curtley Williams missed the game with a hamstring problem but could return.
Gallagher added: 'The reality is they (Bury) are going to be like Billericay. With a lot of teams it doesn't matter which squad they picked last week or next week, they're guaranteed to have a full squad out and be fully on it on Monday, that's the respect that every team in this league pays us, they always make sure their game is raised against Lowestoft.
'That's why I think anything we ever achieve blows the other teams away because no one ever gives us a free ride. We haven't had one all season from anyone, we're not expecting any favours, we expect them to be fully on it and ready to try and spoil the day.'
After today's game at Bury, Lowestoft end their season against lowly Harrow Borough back at Crown Meadow on Saturday, and Gallagher says the win against Billericay has given their squad a huge boost ahead of the last two games.
'The boys have been waiting for a lift like that for a few weeks,' Gallagher continued. 'It was amazing really, I think we lost two in 16 games and yet we hadn't moved up the table the whole time.
'Teams were dropping points ahead of us, just not at the same time, so we're in there now, that's the main thing, we'll just see what happens on Monday and look forward to the last two games and hopefully we'll get enough from those last two games to make the play-offs.'
Lowestoft Town: Ashlee Jones; Jack Ainsley, Dan Gleeson (C), Sam Gaughran, Curtis Haynes-Brown (Adam Smith 79); Chris Henderson, Andrew Fisk (Erkan Okay 49); Rossi Jarvis, Robert Eagle; Jake Reed (Michael Frew 85), Shaun Bammant. Unused subs: Stuart Ainsley, Jake Jessup.
Billericay Town: Billy Lumley; Paul Rodgers, Richard Halle (C), Ryan Scott, George Bevan; Josh Ekim, Callum Dunne, Isacc Layne, Glen Poole; Ricky Sappleton, Evans Kouassi (Jeff Imudia 82). Unused subs: Chris Webber, Joe Benjamin, Cedric Nuakram.