LANCING Football Club were made to work hard for their 2-0 victory in a fiery derby at local County League Division 2 rivals Worthing United on Tuesday night.
Lancers bounced back from their FA Vase disappointment on Saturday to go three points clear at the top of the table, but took just over an hour to break down United, who had to play 75 minutes with 10 men after Dan Garrod saw a straight red card for lashing out early on.
United had to re-shuffle after the sending-off and soaked up what seemed a relentless Lancing attacking threat, and despite an excellent defensive display and fine saves from keeper Steve Phillips, the deadlock was broken by Lee Garnham on 61 minutes, before substitute Dan Griffin made the game safe with just four minutes left.
The two sides went into the game with the two best defensive records in the league, and with five yellow cards brandished, for what mostly were nothing more than committed tackles, in the first 15 minutes, referee Phillip Wilks had made a rod for his own back early on. So when Garrod swung an arm after being pulled back, he had little option but to send him off.
This turned, what was already going to be a tough evening for fourth-placed United, into an even bigger ask and Lancers dominated proceedings.
Richard Hudson drilled a free-kick just wide of the top corner early on, while Garnham’s exquisite flick put in Dan Turner on the edge of the area but he drilled into the side netting.
On 17 minutes, Lancers’ Darren Annis skipped inside and Phillips was equal to his low shot. Shortly afterwards, a spectacular overhead kick from Ben Lucas went just wide, and a speculative Hudson effort almost crept in but Phillips got down well.
After the break, another Hudson free kick flew just over, while Phillips pulled off a fantastic save to push away Annis’ poked close-range effort. But United could not hold out and Lancers went ahead when Dan McLaughlin’s deep cross was flicked home by Garnham.
Joe Shelley did call Lancing’s goalkeeper Jason Downer into his first real action on 80 minutes, as he pushed a header just over the bar. Griffin then, with what was his second touch, slotted into the corner after being teed up on the edge of the area to seal the points.
Lancers joint boss Martin Gander said: “It was a very hard game, a good, physical local derby and United are a good side. Both myself and Jason (Rutherford) have said we think they will finish in the top three.
“The win gives us a nine-point gap over them at the top with two games in hand so it was a massive result for us. Halfway through the season, unbeaten in 17 games and with 45 points is just where we want to be.”
United manager Dominic Di Paola said: “I was pleased with the attitude and commitment all the players showed throughout the whole game.
“It was a shame as we rode the first 10 minutes and felt we were getting into it but then lost a player. There was no excuse for the standard of refereeing tonight, regardless if it was a sending off or not, it was just not acceptable. We are constantly getting referees at this level who are not up to the standard of football being played.”
UNITED: Phillips; Stokes, Curnow, S.Di Paola, Young; Shelley, Rayner, Meehan, Barnard; Nicholson, Garrod. Subs: Shiel (S.Di Paola 76), Hand (Barnard 81), Corkhill, D.Di Paola, Proto.
LANCING: Downer; Lucas, Pickford, Elliott; Hudson, Garnham, Joseph, McLaughlin, Turner; Annis, Sadough. Subs: Hayward (Sadough 4), Griffin (Annis 79), Gibbs (Hudson 86), Bentley, Hibberd.