Finch is King Over Royals
A late Christy Finch free kick gave Gorleston three points, but it’s as you were at the top with three games to go.
Stewart Larter made two changes from the draw with Brightlingsea, with Steve Taylor and Jack Garrod rested on the bench, Joe Bell and Keegan Middleton were given starts.
The Greens began kicking into a strong breeze but had to shuffle their pack within the first five minutes when Carl Poppy picked up a back injury and was replaced by Jack Garrod, with Chris Sandford moving to right back.
Both teams caused problems early on, having efforts from corners which went straight to the keepers but the closest anybody came to scoring was midway through the half when Kyle Baker unleashed a curling effort from 20 yards which beat Elliot Pride but smacked back off the post.
Two minutes later it was Gorleston’s turn to miss a chance. Finch read the bounce of the ball on a hard pitch better than the defender, pulling the ball back to Nathan Stone. Stone scuffed his shot but it fell nicely to Middleton who also scuffed his effort with the goal gaping, and put it wide.
Gorleston broke from a Kirkley corner after 34 minutes, with Garrod running at goal, but his effort was straight into keeper Hayden Roger’s arms.
Two minutes later the Greens lost the ball at the back. Ricci Butler pounced but drilled it into the sidenetting.
Sandford hit a long shot two minutes before the break, but Rogers pushed it away comfortably.
Gorleston came out in the second half fired up but the Kirkley keeper kept them at bay single handedly.
A good break by Bradley Hough in the 49th minute saw him square the ball to Middleton close in, but a great flying save denied the Gorleston man.
Then Hough himself unleashed a drive which Rogers turned over the bar.
Stone headed a corner goalwards, with Rogers saving again and then the keeper denied Finch with his legs.
After 54 minutes it was Ben Lewis’s turn to be denied by Rogers.
Kirkley seemed to weather the storm and applied some pressure of their own with Gorleston now finding it difficult to break through, and Pride was called into action in the 73rd minute, keeping out Ian Hunter after the Greens failed to clear the ball.
A minute later Baker’s free kick went straight through to Pride, then Gorleston broke forward and Middleton’s effort at the other end was into the keeper’s arms.
Manager Larter knew his side had to win to maintain the pressure at the top of the table and threw Peter Lambert on, going three up front for the last fifteen minutes.
With nine minutes to go Finch was fouled by Chris Bond 25 yards out.
Finch picked himself up and superbly curled the ball around the wall into the bottom corner of the net, giving the keeper no chance.
Kirkley applied some late pressure, pushing the Greens back, in search of the equaliser as Gorleston defended more with panic than assuredness.
Steve Taylor came on in injury time to shore up the defences, and make what was his 200th (and probably briefest) appearance for the club and the Greens were able to see the game out.
Gorleston: Elliot Pride, Carl Poppy (Jack Garrod 5), Joe Bell, David Hinton, Andy Howell (c), Josh Armes, Keegan Middleton (Peter Lambert 75), Chris Sandford, Nathan Stone, Christy Finch, Bradley Hough (Steve Taylor 90)
Bookings: Garrod 68; Howell 84
Goals: Finch 81
Kirkley: Hayden Rogers, Tarren Grint, Matthew Brown, Chris Bond, Jack Herbert, Lewis Flower, Gary Williams (Ian Hunter 64), Cameron Brooks (Ross Gilfedder 78), Ricci Butler (Nathen Russell 78), Ross King (c), Kyle Baker
Bookings: Brown 38; Bond 81
|9||Other efforts on target||3
|2||Other efforts off target||4
|0||Other efforts against woodwork||1
|10||Free kicks for||11