This was Lancaster City Reserves final League game in what has been a very successful season, playing enterprising and flowing football they had provided much entertainment for their small band of followers and they now stood ninety minutes away from being crowned League Champions.
On this occasion it was more about getting the result, and they set out in determined and focused fashion. The opening minute could have eased the tension if they had been awarded what appeared to be a blatant penalty, but the officials decided otherwise and City settled into a pattern of play they would maintain throughout the ninety minutes, basically refusing to let Curzon settle to their game and patiently waiting for the chances they knew would come.
The first half was a war of attrition in many ways with both defences and midfields dominating, but Lancaster always seemed to be in control with Cook and Egerton-Wilson leading from the front. The whole team chased and pressed the ball and for other than a ten minute period midway through the half Curzon were very much on the back foot. As a result, chances were few and far between, neither goalkeeper was really tested with only a handful of half chances to show for all the endeavour it was tense stuff.
As the second half got underway Lancaster took up where they had left off and Curzon worked hard to stay in the game. The intensity of the play was maintained and then a booking for Curzon on 55 minutes saw the pattern change. Openings started to appear and from one Hibbert got away for City, but the first real chance went begging. On 58 minutes the City midfield and defence were all at sea for once, but they survived and made their first substitution bringing Williams on for Stutley, this upset the rhythm for a few minutes and Curzon tried to seize the initiative and looked like getting the upper hand. The flow was broken on 63 minutes when the referee went down with cramp and a couple of minutes delay resulted whilst he was treated. Soon after the resumption City got their chance, Turner pressed forward and slipped the ball to the left of the six yard box continuing his run to meet the centre, the ball came across but deflected off Turner and ran loose to Danny Wilkins on the right and in a flash he drove it home, the relief was palpable.
Curzon substituted on 68 minutes and City got back into their rhythm pressing off the ball and giving them virtually nothing. Another Lancaster substitution saw Hoctor replaced by Ralph and then the home side suffered another yellow card and the pressure seemed to be telling. City, with the bit between their teeth, were much the stronger until the 80 minute mark when Ashton dug deep and picked up the pace. For some five minutes Curzon found themselves camped in the Lancaster half, but for all their efforts they were unable to create any real openings and on 85 minutes City eased the pressure and broke away down the left gaining a free kick outside the area. The resulting cross caused mayhem in the Curzon six yard area but what should have been a simple tap in to seal it was slotted wide.
City made their final substitution, Gough coming on for Hibbert, who had worked tirelessly as the target man up front, and his pace and fresh legs kept the pressure in Curzon’s half for most of the closing stages.
It wasn’t a game for the purists, more about industry and effort, but the tension was there throughout, although you always felt City had a little in hand, their superiority being emphasised by the fact they had four clear cut openings and Curzon none.
The City Reserves’ performance this season is to be congratulated, they have done themselves and the Club proud and it just remains to be seen if they can add the League Cup to their Championship Title, they play Fleetwood in the semi-final next on a date to be confirmed.
Lancaster – Dave Rodgerson; Ben Hudson, Andy Collins, Will Still, Sam Egerton-Wilson; Jack Cook(capt), Rhys Turner, Nick Stutley, Sam Hibbert, Dan Wilkins, CallumHoctor.
Subs:-Marley Gough, Alex Ralph, Ike Williams.
Curzon Ashton – Hayden Buckley-Smith; Ryan McNulty, Nathan Martin, Rory Bradbury, Liam Bromiley- Blackburn; Harry Odell, Thomas Keegan,
James Constantine (capt), Ryan Higginson; Michael Linney, Jordan Wright.
Subs:- Aaron Best, Theo Lindsey, Jermaine Steele, Aaron Buckley-Smith.
Referee:- Dean Walton.