Ryman League: Lowestoft Town 1 Aveley 0
Lowestoft Town 1 Aveley 0
A fortuituous late goal by Joe Francis brought huge relief to the Trawlerboys on an afternoon which began with presentations to Micky Chapman in recognition of his 1000 games as manager.
Former players Stephen Wade, John Clark, Peter Holland, Stuart Youngman, Matt Barbrook, Rob McKechnie and Sean Norman – all part of Chapman's first squad back in 1994 – helped form a guard to start the precedings with a touch of nostalia.
But most of the game which followed was anything but vintage for the home side as they struggled to break down the stubborn defence of an Aveley side who look certainties for relegation.
It was not until two minutes from time that a left wing corner dropped into the six yard box and hit Francis before rebounding into the net to give the Blues a single goal victory.
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It was arguably the bit of luck that the Trawlerboys had been sorely missing in recent weeks, ending a run of four games without a win and three successive defeats.
Lowestoft included Matt Halliday and Jamie Godbold in their starting line-up for the first time in the league since October and September respectively.
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Neither keeper was seriously tested until the half hour mark when Aveley full-back Sam Holloway surged forward and unleashed a 30 yard pile driver which Andy Reynolds did well to turn over the bar.
Lowestoft's best first half effort came shortly before the break as Matt Nolan and Jamie Forshaw set up a chance for Dean Sinclair, who put his shot the wrong side of the post.
Injuries forced both sides into half time changes with strikers Forshaw and Troy Powell-Quary replaced by Chris Henderson and Sheldon Sellars. Lowestoft upped the tempo at the start of the second period and looked to have taken the lead when Robert Eagle beat keeper Lemar Johnson, only for his shot to rebound back into play off a post.
Henderson's cross then picked out Scott Mitchell but his header went straight to Johnson before Aveley enjoyed a good spell with Paul Burnett in the centre of things.
Firstly his high looping effort had Reynolds back peddling to hold under the crossbar. Then he missed the chance of the match – blazing high over a gaping goal – before meeting a cross from Sam Holloway with a volley which flashed inches over.
With the game entering the final quarter Lowestoft pushed forward with full-back Scott Mitchell supporting his attack. His 30 yard drive flew straight at Johnson and he then got on to the end of a Lubo Guentchev cross, but the sting was taken off the shot by a defender before being held by the keeper.
A dramatic climax was still to come, however, with the late goal from Francis helping to close the gap on leaders Billericay, who were only able to draw at Wealdstone.
Lowestoft Town: Reynolds, Mitchell, Smith, Fisk, Halliday, Gaughran, Godbold (Guentchev 58), Sinclair, Nolan, Forshaw (Henderson 46), Eagle (Francis 76). Subs (not used Frew, Forbes.
Aveley: Johnson, Harrison, Holloway, Clark, Olatunbosun, Kamara (Blake 54), Begg (K Francis 76), Burnett, Powell-Quary (Sellars 46), D Francis, Okojie, Subs not used Bonnett-Johnson, Brown.