Lowestoft Town’s first-half dominance fails to blow away Stalybridge Celtic
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Both sides went into the game looking for the three points that would ease them away from the Vanarama Conference North relegation dogfight.
At 2pm it was looking like Lowestoft's injury problems were finally easing as everyone except Danny Crow was declared fit and available except the suspended pair of Jack Ainsley and Lee Smith. The only change to the named starting line-up was Dan Gleeson coming in for the suspended Ainsley with Omar Sowunmi switching to right-back.
However, it didn't take long for things to start going wrong on the fitness front with Gleeson pulling up in the warm up and being replaced at the last minute by Curtis Haynes-Brown
A strong blustery gale blowing straight down the ground made life difficult for both teams. With the wind behind them, the Blues pressed for an early breakthrough and the first of a number of free-kicks saw Adam Smith float the ball through to Robert Eagle who brought it down but turned and shot straight into the arms of Lewis King.
Most of the goalmouth action was as a result of set-pieces and from one such free-kick Stalybridge should have taken the lead when the ball fell to Ben McKenna. But with the goal at his mercy he blazed high over the bar from 10 yards.
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King produced an excellent save to turn a Jake Reed effort over the bar after the striker had turned sharply onto an Eagle pass. Lowestoft's pressure finally paid off as they took the lead in the 18th minute. Shaun Bammant was brought down about 25 yards out and although Eagle's free-kick was headed clear the ball was picked up by Adam Smith who found the roof of the net from 25 yards.
King produced another excellent save to turn another Eagle free-kick round the post with Reed, Andrew Fisk and Dean Mason all going close before the break leaving the crowd wondering whether a single goal would be enough when the Blues came out to face the wind in the second period.
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Within five minutes of the second half starting Lowestoft suffered another injury blow as the dominant Haynes-Brown landed awkwardly and was replaced by Erkan Okay.
With the gusts behind them Stalybridge were having more of the play now and they snatched an equaliser in the 64th minute. Okay tried to cut out a crossfield pass but his first touch was poor and Matthew Regan pounced on the ball and from 25 yards saw his shot bounce down off the underside of the bar and spin back into the goal.
Lowestoft sent on both Chris Henderson and Bradley Woods-Garness to try and boost their attacking options but with little success.
With the game entering the final minutes there was an incredible let off for Lowestoft as Regan reached the byline and hit a low cross towards the near post which both Sam Gaughran and Michael Potts went for with the ball rebounding off their legs on to the inside of the post but stayed out after spinning across the line.
Lowestoft's last-gasp effort saw Woods-Garness flash a shot inches too high which meant both sides had to settle for a point.