Photo gallery: Lowestoft Town 1 Billericay Town 0
Top scorer Jake Reed once again proved his worth for Lowestoft Town to keep their Ryman Premier play-off dreams alive this afternoon.
The breakthrough in a tough encounter finally came in the 76th minute, when former Dagenham & Redbridge man Reed scored his 18th goal of the season to leave Lowestoft’s play-off fate in their own hands.
The win moves the Trawlerboys up to fifth in the table and into the play-off places, after Leiston beat Dulwich 3-2 and Maidstone lost 2-1 to Bognor Regis Town, although the top of the table remains very tight.
Lowestoft are fifth on goal difference and there is just five points between Bognor in second, on 82 points, and Dulwich in sixth, on 78.
Lowestoft were forced into a defensive change to their line-up for the visit of mid-table Billericay as right-back Curtley Williams had tweaked his hamstring.
Jack Ainsley started at right-back and Curtis Haynes-Brown, usually a centre-back, was moved to left-back.
Norwich City academy products Andrew Fisk and Rossi Jarvis started in the centre of midfield, with another former Canary on the left, the influential Robert Eagle.
Reed started up front alongside on-loan Dereham Town striker Shaun Bammant, who had been a doubt for the game after missing Thursday night’s 1-1 draw at Grays Athletic with a groin injury.
There was an early scare for Lowestoft after Billericay striker Evans Kouassi broke down the right and crossed for the on-rushing Issac Layne, but he connected with the cross with his shin and the ball flew just over Ashlee Jones’ crossbar.
The game then sprung into life in the seventh minute with three successive Lowestoft corners. The third corner saw the home crowd celebrating after Billericay keeper Lumley appeared to have punched Eagle’s set-piece into his own net.
However a late call from the referee give a free-kick and the visitors then could have claimed the lead themselves almost straight away.
A poor back-pass from centre-back Sam Gaughran saw Kouassi clean through but Lowestoft keeper Jones charged out to thwart the striker bravely.
The frantic action then continued when Bammant was brought down 25 yards out, to the right of centre, but Eagle could only fire straight at Lumley in the ninth minute.
Billericay then came right back at the Trawlerboys, Kouassi again the dangerman. He was initially well tackled by Haynes-Brown but claimed the rebound and crossed to his strike-partner Ricky Sappleton, but the big frontman completely missed the ball when unmarked.
The game settled after a frantic start and the next major chance for Lowestoft came in the 28th minute, after a long clearance from Jones was chased by Reed, only for the striker to be denied by a late tackle by Billericay skipper Richard Halle.
The score was still 0-0 at half-time after a scrappy end to the half and the quality of the game did not improve much after the break, although Billericay started to look more lively, with Lowestoft looking leggy in their fourth game in just eight days.
The visitors thought they had bundled a corner home in the 56th minute but the referee blew for a foul and almost straight away Billericay went close again, winger Josh Ekim played down the right by Layne and firing a shot across goal.
Lowestoft then had their first good chance of the half in the 61st minute, after a lovely cross-field pass from Bammant from the right to Eagle on the left.
The winger had to come inside to get space for a shot though and fired high and wide from the edge of the box on his weaker right foot.
The chance seemed to reignite Lowestoft, as the players dug deep and penned the visitors into their own half.
The home side should have taken the lead in the 70th minute, after a curling Eagle corner from the right went all the way through to the back post but Bammant didn’t stick out a boot to turn the ball home.
Just a minute later Lowestoft again went close, Reed getting to the byline on the right and crossing to winger Chris Henderson charging in at the back post, who was unable to connect in mid-air and the cross drifted to safety.
Lowestoft continued to press forward and finally got their reward in the 76th minute after a lovely move.
Henderson made progress down the right and cut back for Ainsley, who calmly took a touch and curled the ball to Bammant at the back post, who headed back across goal for Reed to head home from six yards and put Lowestoft 1-0 up.
The game reverted back to being a scrappy affair after the goal, as Lowestoft ground out the win and broke up play by using their substitutes, although Reed did go off with a knock which could be a concern ahead of Monday’s trip to Team Bury.
A late scare came in the fifth minute of injury-time when Layne was able to shoot from just inside the Lowestoft box but fired well wide and then Jones missed a punch to clear a cross, but Billericay couldn’t take advantage and Lowestoft held on for the final whistle and a big cheer from the home support.
Lowestoft Town: Ashlee Jones; Jack Ainsley, Dan Gleeson (C), Sam Gaughran, Curtis Haynes-Brown (Adam Smith 79); Chris Henderson, Andrew Fisk (Erkan Okay 49); Rossi Jarvis, Robert Eagle; Jake Reed (Michael Frew 85), Shaun Bammant. Unused subs: Stuart Ainsley, Jake Jessup.
Billericay Town: Billy Lumley; Paul Rodgers, Richard Halle (C), Ryan Scott, George Bevan; Josh Ekim, Callum Dunne, Isacc Layne, Glen Poole; Ricky Sappleton, Evans Kouassi (Jeff Imudia 82). Unused subs: Chris Webber, Joe Benjamin, Cedric Nuakram.