Blues' joy as switch pays off

Lowestoft Town joint boss Ady Gallagher was delighted the decision to switch hat-trick hero Joe Francis to centre forward paid dividends in the thrilling 4-3 win over East Thurrock United.

Lowestoft Town joint boss Ady Gallagher was delighted the decision to switch hat-trick hero Joe Francis to centre-forward paid dividends

in the thrilling win over East Thurrock United.

The Blues were trailing 2-1 to the Rocks at half-time when the management trio of Gallagher, Micky Chapman and Craig Fleming decided to put Francis up top.

And the move paid off straight away as Francis bagged a brace to give his side the lead, and although the visitors pulled it back to 3-3,

the former King's Lynn man was

on hand to complete his hat-trick

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for victory.

"We felt that Joe's pace and directness would cause them a bit of a problem and it's just one of those things that when they come off for you it's fantastic," Gallagher said of the win which keeps the Blues six points clear at the top of Ryman League Division One North.

"It was inspired in many ways and worked well for us on this occasion. And when you've got good players you know that someone's always likely to create and, to be fair, if

we'd taken our chances earlier and their goalkeeper hadn't been having such a great game we could have been comfortably in the lead in the first 20 minutes. But it turned into a bit of a scrap."

And Gallagher admitted the points were crucial in the grand scheme of things as his side push on towards promotion.

"Three points against one of the tops sides in the league is important at this stage of the season and we've got 16 games left," he said.

"We've got a nice lead at the top

but you have to keep chipping away at games.

"We've now played Thurrock twice, we've played Thamesmead twice, we've got Enfield and Concord who are the other two main rivals over the next week to ten days, so we know after those games we've played all the top five teams twice.

"It's a nice position to be in at this stage of the season, but we've earned that by being really consistent throughout the start of the season right through to Christmas.

"I think our form since Christmas has not been fantastic and is probably not as relaxed and as

free-flowing as it has been but, to

be fair, we've had so many injuries and disruptions to the line-up it's inevitable it's going to unsettle

you a little bit - and it's also down to the fact we're at the business end of the season."

The Blues are straight back into action this evening when they

travel to Division One South

side Croydon Athletic in the

quarter-finals of the Championship

Manager Cup.

Gallagher is expecting a good test against the side sitting second in their league, but is targeting a place in the last four.

"It should be an interesting game because they are going well in their league," he said.

"The cup wasn't something we set out to focus on, but once you get to the quarter-final stage it's very serious so although we'll utilise the squad, we'll be going there with the intention to try and win the game."

Lowestoft made a bright start, with Francis' cross finding Gary McGee whose header was tipped over the bar by Richard Wray.

The goal that had been threatening finally arrived in the 36th minute as Andrew Fisk played the ball forward, Gary Holt nodded on and Matt Nolan's dummy let the ball run for Craig Bussens to drive home off the keeper's body.

That goal gave East Thurrock a lift and they levelled the scores just four minutes later. Kris Newby was played away down the right and he pulled the ball back for Sam Berry to knock into the net from six yards.

The Rocks then stunned Lowestoft with a second goal on the stroke of half-time as Kye Ruel was left unmarked to chip the ball over Andy Reynolds into the net.

The opening 15 minutes of the second half was a scrappy affair but the Blues played a master stroke as Scott Mitchell and Jamie Forshaw were sent on in place of Bussens and Gary McGee, with Francis taking up a more central striking role.

The move paid almost immediate dividends as Francis turned and volleyed over Wray from 20 yards to level the scores.

Two minutes later and the Blues were ahead again as Matt Nolan fed Francis to shoot across the keeper into the far corner.

Thurrock hit back and it took an excellent diving save from eynolds to turn away a shot from the division's leading scorer Sam Higgins.

However, the Rocks again levelled the scores in the 69th minute. Max Cornhill moved the ball forward before clipping the ball to Sam Berry who nodded the ball back into the path of Cornhill to shoot past Reynolds.

With 10 minutes left Lowestoft again moved ahead with a cross from the left held up by Nolan who teed the ball up for Francis to complete his hat-trick with a shot just inside the near post.

The thrills did not end there though as East Thurrock fought back and had a great chance to claim a last minute equaliser as Higgins raced through and pulled the ball back but behind three colleagues who were racing up in support.

Lowestoft Town: Reynolds, Plaskett, Smith, Holt, Crane, Potter, Bussens (Sub Forshaw 56), Fisk, Nolan (Sub Bloomfield (88), McGee (Sub Mitchell 56), Francis, Subs (not used) Halliday, Poppy.

East Thurrock United: Wray, Sammons, Duffy, Wood, Donovan, Sheehan, Newby (Sub Collins 55), Cornhill, Berry (Sub Barry 85), Higgins, Ruel, Subs (not used) Harrison, Ellerbeck, Bradford.

Attendance: 857.