Micky Chapman’s final Lowestoft Town match ends in typical battling fashion
- Credit: Nick Butcher
There is no doubting that the irrepressible Micky Chapman has left a lasting legacy at Lowestoft Town – and it was so nearly portrayed perfectly by the current Blues team in his final match.
The visit of league leaders Barrow, with around 400 boisterous travelling supporters in tow, provided just the sort of challenge the 53-year-old has relished during his 33 years at Crown Meadow.
The Cumbrian club knew they needed just one win to seal the Conference North title, regardless of how nearest challengers and local rivals AFC Fylde got on, thanks to a two-point cushion.
With the Trawlerboys already having safely secured their stay in the second tier of non-league football, it would seem the pressure was off. That is not how Chapman and joint manager Ady Gallagher go about their business however.
Chapman was managing the Blues for the 1,178th time, having also scored 193 goals in 480 games as a striker since joining the club back in 1982.
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The body may be creaking and the mind a tad worn after all those years aboard the non-league roller-coaster but there was little evidence of that from Chapman on the sidelines – particularly once his team had fallen 2-0 behind.
Barrow flew out of the traps and opened the scoring in the 13th minute when Omar Sowunmi was slow to clear and allowed midfielder Sam Sheridan to lift the ball over Ashlee Jones for 1-0.
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The visitors then doubled their lead in the 27th minute when Sheridan slipped a free-kick to the unmarked Andy Haworth, whose cross was stroked into the net by defender Niall Cowperthwaite from 10 yards for 2-0.
It looked like it was to be something of a stroll against a weary Lowestoft team – who had already worked so hard and travelled so many miles to secure a mid-table finish.
Yet there was Chapman, bouncing around in front of the home dug-out, clapping his hands and shouting encouragement, knowing his players had a response in them.
That belief stems from 13 goals scored in the 80th minute or later by the Trawlerboys this season, earning 17 precious points with late goals across the course of the season.
His faith would be rewarded, although not until after a debatable penalty was awarded early in the second half.
Curtis Haynes-Brown slid in to tackle Barrow striker Andy Cook in the box in the 48th minute and was angered at the referee's decision, which Jason Walker made sure to take full advantage of, firing down the middle for 3-0.
The never-say-die spirit of Chapman and Gallagher's team would reemerge though – and give the Bluebirds an almighty scare as they prepared to kick-off their title celebrations.
Shaun Bammant won a penalty in the 70th minute and Jack Ainsley gratefully took the opportunity, scoring his 14th penalty of the season and 16th goal overall.
The adrenaline suddenly flowed through the veins of the home players and the champions-in-waiting had to get all hands to the pump – knowing a draw could rob them of their glory.
A Lee Smith corner was headed back across goal by Sam Gaughran in the 87th minute and Haynes-Brown sent shivers down the visiting spines with a good finish to make it 3-2.
Further chances came and went but the fairytale was not to be.
The spirit that Chapman tries to inspire in his players had been demonstrated against the division's best team however, allowing the Trawlerboys to hold their heads high as they gathered their guard of honour for Barrow.
Chapman struggled to hold back the tears as the many goodbyes began – but they were as much tears of pride as they were of sadness for a true club legend.