After two back to back defeats at The Dripping Pan last week, The Rooks returned to emphatic winning ways with a comprehensive victory in an eventful game at Molesey, reports Stuart Fuller.
With Lloyd Cotton suspended, it was a familiar looking Lewes back four, whilst Gus Sow was given a starting place in the centre of the bobbly pitch after Charlie Coppola was forced to withdraw due to the injury he picked up against Dorking Wanderers on Wednesday night.
With the wind and rain causing some issues in the early periods of the game, neither side really imposed themselves, although Chris Winterton had to be alive to an early Molesey chance when the Lewes defence failed to clear a ball played into the danger zone. At the other end, long-range strikes from Lloyd Harrington, James Hammond and Jack Dixon all tested the young Molesey keeper, Liam Allen.
The Rooks finally took the lead in the 30th minute with the goal coming from an unlikely source. After a Lewes corner was cleared, the ball was played back out wide where Alex Malins was still loitering, and with one deft touch, turn and superb cross, he set up Jonté Smith to calmly side-foot home. The Rooks pressed forward and only some desperate defending and good hands from Allen kept the score at 1-0 although in the 44th minute it seemed that Lewes had doubled the lead but Jonté was ruled offside as he tapped in at the far post.
The second half saw James Hammond miss his lines when the goal was at his mercy in the first minute but then Molesey came back into the game. They had a big shout for a penalty when a cross looked to have hit the arm of Stacey Freeman but despite their possession and pressure, Chris Winterton was rarely called into action.
In the 68th minute a superb team move saw James Hammond play in Jonté who danced around the keeper and he clipped his ankles. Penalty Lewes. Jack Dixon’s spot kick was superbly saved by the impressive Allen but Jonté was on hand to put in the rebound to make it 2-0.
The goal seemed to break any spirit Molesey had and the Rooks streamed forward looking for more goals. Five minutes later as they prepared to take a corner the referee saw Molesey centre-forward Joe Nwoko aim an elbow at Stacey Freeman and he was shown a straight red. Stephen Okoh almost added a third when he rounded Allen but put the ball into the side netting, then Jonté Smith slotted in a ball behind the defence for substitute Callum Kealy to run onto and slot under the keeper for his first senior goal for The Rooks, a moment shared with all ten outfield players, underlining the spirit in the squad.
Freshly shorn Ronnie Conlon, on for James Hammond had a chance to make it four but also hit the side netting before fellow sub Wilfried Grimaud showed him how to do it, running clear and calmly slotting home to cap a superb second half display from the Rooks.
After the two harsh defeats against the top two this was the perfect response from The Rooks, who dominated the game and would have won by a much bigger margin had it not been for the Molesey keeper. Attentions now turn to the game at South Park on Monday in the knowledge that a win there will move the team back into the Play-off spots. Understandably Darren was very pleased with the performance when he spoke to Barry Collins post-match.
Molesey: Allen, Andrews, Charles (Mwiwie – 77 mins), Lewington, King, Simeone, Windsor, Charles, Grobler, Nwoko, Lodge
Subs not used: David, Spence, Smith
Sent off: Nwoko
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, George, Harrington, Freeman, Malins, Okoh (Kealy – 75 mins), Hammond (Conlon – 80 mins), Smith (Grimaud – 85 mins), Dixon, Sow
Subs not used: Munoz-Fernandez