Lowestoft Town’s day of destiny: How they got to today’s final
- Credit: James Bass
The Blues secured their fourth play-off final in as many years at Bognor Regis on Wednesday evening. mark armstrong takes a look how they got there.
Lowestoft opened their season with a 2-0 defeat to Ryman League Premier new-boys Dulwich Hamlet, but bounced back in their first game of the campaign at Crown Meadow with a 5-0 hammering of Thamesmead – Chris Henderson and Lee Smith both bagging a brace each.
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Bognor Regis were also put to the sword at home thanks to goals from Jack Ainsley and Danny Cunningham, who let out his frustration at being left on the bench by attacking an advertising hoarding in his celebration. They suffered disappointment on the road against AFC Hornchurch, who beat the Trawlerboys 2-1 thanks to a controversial late penalty.
Suffolk rivals, Leiston, were then put to the sword at home as big summer signing Bradley Woods-Garness got his first goal for the club.
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Lowestoft did not get the month off to the best of starts as they fell to a later winner after a poor performance at home to Hendon. Consecutive draws in the league against Grays Athletic and Enfield sandwiched an FA Cup defeat against Harlow as Lowestoft's campaign faltered amid rumours the playing budget had been cut. However, a wonderful volley from Curtis Haynes-Brown secured a vital victory on the road at East Thurrock and ensured they finished the month on a high.
Defeat on the artificial playing surface of Maidstone at the start of the month was followed by a 5-0 hammering of lowly Carshalton Athletic. Jake Reed, who had signed for the Blues after being released by Dagenham & Redbridge, grabbed four goals in the first half and it looked like the club had found a new goalscoring hero. The 22-year-old was on target again in Lowestoft's best performance of the season so far in the 2-0 win over Kingstonian at the Meadow.
Lowestoft claimed their ninth clean sheet of the season so far as they hammered AFC Hornchurch 3-0 to dent the hopes of one of their promotion rivals. Robert Eagle got the breakthrough early in the second half before goals by Adam Smith and Sam Gaughran secured three invaluable points. Frustratingly Lowestoft were then surprisingly beaten 2-0 at home to Cray Wanderers as inconsistency continued to dog their season. However, impressive win over Lewes (2-0) and Margate (3-0) ensured the club remained on the coat-tails of the promotion pack. Lowestoft ended the month with a creditable 0-0 draw at Metropolitan Police.
Lowestoft's home form deserted them again when Hampton & Richmond thoroughly outplayed the Blues to win 3-0 and relegation-threatened Thamesmead also took points off Craig Fleming's men in a 2-2 draw – a controversial penalty denying Lowestoft the victory after Jake Reed thought he had struck an 88th minute winner.
The Blues got revenge over high-flying Dulwich Hamlet with an impressive 2-0 win at the Meadow, courtesy of goals from Sam Gaughran and Rossi Jarvis.
Jake Reed got the only goal at Leiston whilst Chris Henderson's double got Lowestoft out of jail as they took all three points against Canvey Island despite a below par display.
The new year did not get off to the best of starts as the Blues drew at Harrow Borough before being thumped 4-1 at Bognor Regis. But it was the defeat at home to Bury that hurt the most as Jake Reed's opener proved nothing more than a consolation as their Suffolk rivals ran riot in the second half to secure a 3-1 win.
It would be the result that changed Lowestoft's season as they went on a run of just two defeats in their remaining 19 matches. Goals from Jake Reed, Manny Osei and Michael Frew gave Lowestoft victory over East Thurrock at home to end the month on a high.
Jake Reed's second-half strike earned Lowestoft a draw at home to champions-elect Wealdstone and the former Great Yarmouth man was at it again as his goal saw off Carshalton Athletic away from home. Chris Henderson claimed the only goal of the game at Billericay as Lowestoft got themselves firmly back into promotion contention.
Jake Reed's stoppage time winner gave Lowestoft an excellent victory over then title challengers, Maidstone United, as the Blues started to let their minds wander again whether this could be their year. It was a match also remembered for a goal of the season contender from Chris Henderson, whose left-footed thunderbolt was the talk of the Blues faithful. Cray Wanderers was easily beaten 4-0 away from home before a Jack Ainsley penalty gave his side a vital victory at Hendon. Lewes then halted the Blues five-match winning streak with a 1-1 draw at Crown Meadow and this was followed by an abject display in a 3-0 defeat to Margate. Lowestoft got the result out of their system the following Tuesday as a Jack Ainsley hat-trick inspired the Blues to a 7-0 win over Wingate & Finchley. Metropolitan Police parked the bus at Crown Meadow in the next game and left with a 1-1 draw leaving Lowestoft with plenty of work to do if they were to make the play-offs.
Goals from Robert Eagle and Chris Henderson put Lowestoft 2-0 up at Hampton & Richmond, who despite having two players sent off, rallied to almost claim an unlikely point – the Blues just clinging on for a 2-1 win. A 0-0 draw at Wealdstone and defeat to Kingstonian looked to have ended Lowestoft's hopes of securing a play-off berth but a 2-0 win at home to Enfield kept their faint hopes alive – Erkan Okay and Jake Reed getting the goals. Grays held Lowestoft to a 1-1 draw meaning that Lowestoft knew they had to win their remaining three league games to have any realistic chance of making the top five. Jake Reed's 75th minute goal saw off a determined Billericay side and Lowestoft showed their mettle to defeat Bury at Ram Meadow courtesy of a Jack Ainsley brace. Lowestoft knew going into their final game that victory would ensure a play-off place and they duly saw off Harrow Borough thanks to goals from Robert Eagle, Shaun Bammant and Michael Frew. This set up a semi-final away from home against Bognor Regis. Terry Dodd gave the Rocks an early lead but Lowestoft proceeded to produce their best performance of the season so far to win 2-1 – Curtis Haynes-Brown and yes, you guessed it, Jake Reed getting the goals.