Lowestoft Town 1 Merstham 0: Jacek Zielonka strikes to give Dale Brooks his first win
PUBLISHED: 09:56 12 November 2017 | UPDATED: 09:56 12 November 2017
Shirley D Whitlow
Lowestoft Town defender Travis Cole was impressed by the character and resilience they showed - after battling to win their first match under new manager Dale Brooks.
A first half strike from Jacek Zielonka was enough to claim the three points and gain some revenge on Merstham, who thrashed the Trawlerboys 6-2 just a few weeks earlier.
It was a much needed victory for Lowestoft, who came into the game on the back of successive home defeats.
“In our last few games, we have been two or three yards off the pace, but today we showed good character and gave them no space to play,” said Cole.
“I felt a real change - everyone wanted it - so many people were getting after the ball and it was a really good reaction to the past few matches.”
Brooks made two changes to his side as Callum White and Andrew Fisk were brought into the starting eleven - with Dean Leacock injured and Harvey Hodd dropped to the bench.
The visitors, known as the Moatsiders, made three changes from their most recent game - a defeat to Margate.
The Surrey side, managed by Hayden Bird, began the game six places and four points above the Trawlerboys.
Before the match, the Amber Dew Events Stadium fell silent to observe minute’s silence on Armistice Day.
The home side began on the front foot and had chances through two early free-kicks. Adam Smith tried first - but his effort flew narrowly wide. Then Zielonka wasted a chance from a similar position.
But on 15 minutes, the home side seized the initiative.
A long ball over the top of the Merstham defence found Zielonka - and he kept his cool to slot the ball past Haigh and give Lowestoft the lead for the second game running.
It was his fourth goal of the season - and came at a time when Lowestoft really needed to show a signal of intent.
Merstham nearly responded immediately - but Stephan Hamilton-Forbes shot over the bar from the edge of the six-yard box.
The Trawlerboys were then forced into an early change as Adam Smith limped off and had to be replaced by Cruise Nyadzayo - which forced goalscorer Zielonka to adopt a deeper role.
But that didn’t affect the flow of the game for the home team , who continued to keep the ball with confidence and continually looked dangerous with the long balls over the visiting backline.
Before the interval, Merstham had a great chance to equalise as Maynard-Menett’s strong run down the right set up a chance for new signing Andre McCollin - but the former Tonbridge Angels striker shot straight at Ben Dudzinski.
After the restart, both sides struggled to maintain the pace of the opening 45 minutes.
Sam Borrer shot over the bar from 25 yards for Lowestoft on 56 minutes and at the other end, Merstham’s leading scorer Ryan Hall, who scored a hat-trick in Merstham’s recent victory over the Trawlerboys, wasted a chance from a free-kick.
Merstham then made a double change as another new signing Alberto Lubango came on - along with Sonny Black.
Antone Douglas shot wide from inside the penalty area for the Surrey side as they looked increasingly dangerous in attack as Lowestoft began to sit deeper.
Hodd came on in place of Fisk as the Trawlerboys looked to grind out what would be a confidence-boosting win.
They nearly extended their lead, with 10 minutes remaining, as Rossi Jarvis’s shot from a Zielonka corner, was cleared off the line by Hall.
But in the end, it was Zielonka’s goal that proved the difference as Lowestoft stayed strong at the back to claim a vital three points.
“We were playing five through the back, not necessarily playing wing backs, but I feel like it worked well,” Cole added.
“It is important now that we get the rest and recovery before we try to grind out the results to work our way up the table.”
Lowestoft Town: Dudzinski, White, Smith (Nyadzayo 18 ((Bammant 89)), Cole, Barker, McAuley, Fisk (Hodd 79), Jarvis, Reed, Borrer, Zielonka.
Subs: Westlake, Putnins.
Merstham: Haigh, Maynard-Menett, Harrison, Cooper, Douglas, Hamilton-Forbes (Black 67), Bennett (Lubango 67), Samuels (Bonnett-Johnson 82), McCollin, Hall, Addai. Subs not used: Henriques, Jones
Yellow Cards: Lowestoft 1 (Zielonka 76) - Merstham 2 (Maynard-Menett 10, Addai 90)
Referee: Ryan Head