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Lonsdale Men’s football team took a massive step towards clinching a surprise title win in the College A league. In what was rightly billed as a title decider, Lonsdale overcame a dogged Bowland side with a narrow 2-1 victory. In what was an even game where a draw perhaps would have been the fairest result, the ruthless finishing of Josh Duggan proved the difference as Lonsdale provided a lesson in finishing.
In front of a noisy crowd of vociferous supporters the game kicked off with the pitch looking heavy and un-conducive to passing football. However, both teams were clearly motivated for the game and the opening minutes were played at a ferocious pace, with some committed tackling which prevented any flow to the game.
In the first attack of note, Lonsdale were able to grab the opening goal with just four minutes played. Colin Bridge made a bustling run down the left-wing and his mis-hit shot was turned in at the back post by Josh Duggan. In spite of taking this early lead, Lonsdale lost concentration and almost immediately allowed Bowland to grab the equalizer. A long throw was flicked on by Denholm Hesse into the path of the onrushing veteran Dave Fullylove who had run from deep and he dummied the keeper to calmly slot home a vital goal for his side.
This goal gave Bowland a foothold in the game and as the half progressed they took control of possession and looked the more composed side. Their confidence was growing and Christian Steels forced Matt Phillips into a smart save with a powerful 30 yard free kick. The Lonsdale midfield looked rattled as Dave Fullylove and the other Bowland midfielders worked tirelessly to deny them time and space on the ball.
On 20 minutes came arguably the pivotal moment in the game. Hesse was played through on the left hand side of the box only to fire wide with the goal gaping and two teammates in space to his right. This miss seemed to galvanise Lonsdale who gradually worked their way back into the game and began to pass the ball with greater purpose. This improved style of play saw Josh Duggan put clean through on 33 minutes, only for Ronan Szelesi to make a perfectly timed tackle with the striker bearing down on goal.
Duggan was not be denied his second though; just a minute later he latched onto a cleverly taken quick free kick and cut in from the left before passing the ball expertly into the far corner giving James Bowry no chance. Bowland were clearly shocked by this goal that came against the run of play and failed to threaten Lonsdale for the remainder of the half.
Lonsdale started the second half on the front foot and looked to add a third goal which would have killed off the tie. Josh Duggan continued to look lively and his teammates seemed to fancy their chances of scoring from long range; with a barrage of efforts failing to beat Bowry.
With Lonsdale only 2-1 ahead, the game was very much alive and Bowland were the next team to threaten. The energetic Catterall burst past Alex Lanigan and fired a warning shot just over the angle of post and bar from the edge of the box. However, this was the last clear chance for Bowland as tired legs and resolute defending from Lonsdale’s centre-half pairing of Chris Marshall and Dominic Keely stifled their attack.
As the game neared 70 minutes it was obvious that both sides were feeling the effects of the heavy pitch as huge spaces opened up in the midfield area. Bowland resorted to a more direct style and peppered the Lonsdale backline with a series of long throws, to no avail. Lonsdale were able to comfortably play out the remainder of the half and the intelligent hold up play of Duggan and Chris Floodgate relieved any pressure on their defence. There were jubilant scenes at the final whistle as Lonsdale’s players and supports savoured a potentially title clinching victory.
Bowland will obviously be disappointed with the result but should take heart from a wholehearted performance. Although they missed the creativity of the injured Billy Tosh, Bowland competed superbly and crafted enough chances to have earned a point. However, clinical Lonsdale finishing and organized defence prevented a 2-1 half time lead from being overturned.
The result sees Lonsdale three points clear at the top of the league with one game remaining. In the last set of fixtures on Wednesday, Bowland need to beat Fylde and hope that Lonsdale lose to Grizedale in order for them to seal an unlikely league triumph. Conversely, Lonsdale will rightly be confident of collecting the solitary point they need to secure the title.