Lancers keep faint title hopes alive

Lancing's Charlie Walker celebrates his first goal
Lancing's Charlie Walker celebrates his first goal

LANCING Football Club kept their faint County League Division 1 title hopes alive as a Charlie Walker brace helped them to a 2-1 victory over unlucky Lingfield on Saturday.

Lancers, guaranteed at least third place, are five points behind leaders Three Bridges, and four behind second-placed Rye United with a game in hand.

Bridges travel to Rye on the final day of the season (April 28) and were held at home on Saturday by Pagham, Lancers’ next opponents, this Saturday, which means Lancing, mathematically, could still win the league.

For large parts of the game with Lingfield, Lancers were slack and disjointed, with joint manager Martin Gander admitting after the game that his squad are tired.

He said: “We weren’t at our best, but a win’s a win and it leaves us in with a chance of finishing second or perhaps even winning it, you never know what could happen.

“We’d have taken this at the start of the season, to only lose four times is a great achievement, the players have been brilliant but are starting to get tired now.

“It showed last Monday in the Worthing United game and again today, but Lingfield are a good team and we worked hard for the win, with Charlie Walker again outstanding.”

Walker struck after just 10 minutes to put Lancers ahead, when he latched on to a Graham Martin through ball and lobbed Lingfield keeper Rob O’Hara for his 30th strike of the campaign.

From then on, the visitors began to dominate and twice almost levelled when first Josh Coulson, then Matt Warren, saw their efforts saved by Tony Di Bernardo.

Carlton Murray-Price went close with a header from Scott Elgar’s free-kick and captain Gareth Graham had an effort held from range before the half-hour mark in the last noteworthy chance of the first period.

Lingfield, seventh in the table after a solid campaign, had trounced relegated Chichester and eighth-placed Redhill in their previous two matches, and threatened again when Warren slammed an effort wide.

They always looked capable of scoring and the equaliser did arrive on 64 minutes when Tom Hughes bundled in from Graham’s corner to give them reward for their positive attacking intent.

That seemed to wake Lancing up and Walker almost put them back ahead straight away when his dipping volley looked in all the way, only to veer away and over the bar at the last minute.

The prolific front man was on target yet again, though, with a sublime finish from the edge of the area on the angle from a Jack Hayward lay-off in the 70th minute.

Lingfield managed to muster one last spell of pressure and were denied by backs-to-the-wall defending. Substitute Danny Oakins’ deflected effort was charged down by Grant Philpott, Dan McLoughlin cleared a header on the six-yard line and Graham lashed a late effort wide.

Lancers entertain Pagham in their final home game this Saturday and then travel to AFC Uckfield on the last day of the season.

LANCING: Di Bernardo; Hunt, Gainsford, O’Regan, Philpott; Hayward, McLoughlin, Garnham; Martin, Walker, Paterson. Subs: Pulling (Hayward 73), Boswell (Garnham 76), Sharman, Tighe, Banasco-Zaragoza.