Suffolk Premier Cup final: Lowestoft Town 3 Leiston 1
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Holders Lowestoft Town lifted the Suffolk Premier Cup for the 13th time last night and went some way to softening the blow of relegation from National League North, writes Chris Brammer.
Lowestoft suffered the drop on goal difference at the weekend, following their 1-1 draw with Gloucester City.
As a result, Ady Gallagher's side will be lining up against Leiston in the Ryman Premier Division next season and, on this display, provided they keep the bulk of their team, will provide formidable opposition for the Blues and fellow county rivals, Needham Market and AFC Sudbury.
First-half goals from Michael Spillane and Danny Crow gave the Trawlerboys a commanding half-time lead, before Joe Marsden added a third six minutes before the end.
Joe Jefford grabbed a consolation for Leiston, but it was far too little, too late for the coastal side.
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Richard Wilkins' outfit battled hard throughout – Leon Ottley-Gooch epitomising their determination and fighting spirit, but higher-division Lowestoft were bigger, quicker and stronger. Led by Crow, they were sharp and inventive on the ball, but even better without it, and didn't show any signs of fatigue, despite having completed another rigorous season, Gallagher's men pressing high up the pitch throughout.
Their superiority was not evident in the opening exchanges, and Leiston had plenty of early possession, but found it hard to maintain any kind of sustained pressure in the final third, playing with just Christy Finch in attack.
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Chances were at a premium, although Lowestoft were almost presented with a golden chance on 20 minutes when Leiston goalkeeper Ashlee Jones' short clearance sold Ottley-Gooch short on the edge of the 18-yard box.
Shaun Bammant intercepted the pass but got the ball tangled between his feet before he could find Crow.
It was Crow who had the first shot in anger a minute later, his volley from 20 yards at a comfortable height for Jones to save.
Lowestoft began to enjoy sustained periods of pressure, having done the early pressing, but it was Leiston that broke next, Seb Dunbar galloping down the left flank, only to see his final ball into the box well defended.
The Blues had competed well up to that point but will have been disappointed when Lowestoft took the lead on 25 minutes.
After Harry Barker's right-wing cross was cleared for a corner, Crow's resultant set-piece found Spillane, totally unmarked at the back post, and the big centre-back had all the time in the world to side-foot home, eight yards out, past a static Leiston defence in front of the North stand.
Lowestoft's tails were up and Crow, who was having a growing influence on proceedings, went close moments later with a dipping half volley that just cleared Jones' bar.
Ottley-Gooch hit back briefly for Leiston, heading over Lloyd Clarke's cross, but the Blues were then almost given a mountain to climb when Jones' poor goal-kick went low and straight to Marsden, who attempted an instant lob back towards goal. Fortunately for Jones, who was off his line, the winger's attempt was high and wide.
However, that was only a temporary reprieve as on the stroke of half-time, Lowestoft made it two thanks to a wonder strike from Crow. The former Peterborough striker curled a wonderful drive over the wall and across the goal, the ball going in off the post and giving Jones no chance.
Ryan Jarvis was not so lucky with his free-kick five minutes after the break as the Trawlerboys looked to put the game to bed, the midfielder's effort clearing Jones' bar without causing any consternation.
Leiston looked slightly more threatening in the second half and Ottley-Gooch headed a half chance off target in the 65th minute after Tom Winter's shot had deflected towards him.
The Trawlerboys hit back though and after Crow had found Rob Eagle with an exquisite slide-rule pass, the winger's centre was controlled by Bammant who fired just the wrong side of Jones' post, after swivelling in the box.
Eagle and Adam Smith then tried their luck from range, both efforts going slightly off target, and their profligacy almost benefitted Leiston – Winter's ball across the box evading the Lowestoft back-line and goalkeeper but, unfortunately for the Blues, the back post too.
The game was getting stretched by this point and after Jones had comfortably fielded a Marsden shot, Leiston's long-serving defender, Blake Saker was denied at the back post by a combination of the opposition's defence and goalkeeper, Ben Killip.
Saker tried his luck again on 80 minutes, the right-back cutting inside and unleashing a testing left-foot shot that Killip did well to save low to his right.
Killip's opposite number Jones then impressed at the other end seconds later, getting down well at his near post to palm Barker's effort out for a corner.
Lowestoft were comfortable in the closing minutes and put a seal on proceedings with six minutes to go, Marsden the quickest to the rebound after his poor penalty kick had been saved by Jones, low down to the former Town stopper's left-hand side.
The Trawlerboys looked to be set for a morale-boosting clean sheet but right at the death, a cross from the right was flicked on and Jefford nodded the ball past the despairing dive of Killip.
Leiston: Jones, Saker, Dunbar, Trotter (Kerslake, 68), Jefford, Bullard, Clarke (Blades, 68), Ottley-Gooch, Winter (Oxbrow, 87), Finch, Clark. Subs not used: Boardley, Spurling.
Lowestoft Town: Killip, Barker, Smith, Deeks, Spillane, Rossi Jarvis, Marsden (Nyadzayo, 85), Ryan Jarvis, Bammant, Crow (Bishop, 87), Eagle. Sub not used: Putjins
Referee: Paul Quick