After last Saturday’s excellent win at Molesey and Monday’s postponement at South Park, Darren has been able to focus the squad on the massive game on Saturday against fellow Play-off hopefuls Hythe Town. There’s still some injury concerns over Jamie Brotherton, but Darren was encouraged by the return to first team action of Ronnie Conlon last Saturday. Lloyd Cotton is also available again after serving his one game ban, whilst Charlie Coppola could figure after missing out as well last Saturday.
Darren’s thoughts ahead of Saturday’s game:-
“We certainly came close to our best at Molesey last week, especially in the second half. We adapted well to a pretty rough pitch and the 4-0 scoreline certainly didn’t flatter us. Considering they’ve only lost two there all season, it was really good for us to go there, score four goals, and keep a clean sheet. I hope that was a good reward for the 40 or so fans who made the trip, and thanks again for continuing to turn up in such impressive numbers.
“I want to give a special mention to Jonté Smith, who scored two of last week’s goals at Molesey. We sat down with Jonté before the Cray game and asked him to adapt his game. We wanted a little more work rate and asked him to hold the ball up, and he’s definitely delivered what’s been asked of him. He’d had a frustrating couple of games where he was doing what we asked, but the goals weren’t coming, but the sublime finish on his first goal last week shows that the extra bits we’ve asked him to contribute won’t harm his proven goalscoring ability.
“I also want to give a mention to Harry Reed, one of the young lads from the Academy, who’s now training with the first team full-time and is really coming on at pace.
“You may have noticed over the past few months that we’ve continued to get first team players committed to contracts. Matt George signed a couple of weeks ago, and given the form he was in, it was only a matter of time before other clubs came knocking, so we’re very glad to have him with us. Stephen Okoh and Jonté Smith have both signed deals this season, and James Hammond and Ronnie Conlon signed deals last season, and we have an option to extend those deals for all four of those players into next season, which shows how we’re building for the long term.”
How’s this season been for Hythe Town?
Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at home to Hastings United was an opportunity missed for Hythe Town to climb back into the Play-off spots. They’ve been there or there abouts since early September, initially due to the goals of Alfie May, who hit the net 24 times for them before he departed for Doncaster Rovers in mid-December, signing off in the league with a hatrick against us in December. His brother, Jay, suffered a nasty injury earlier in the season but is now fit and has been among the goals recently. Not that they lack goals from around the side with the likes of Sam Pogue and Frankie Sawyer regular scorers for them.
Their weakness, similar to ours, has been failing to pick up points from the teams at the top. Since Christmas they have lost to Tooting & Mitcham United and Greenwich Borough, whilst also taking just one point from the two games with Hastings United. On the flip side they scored 14 goals in two games in a week in January against Walton Casuals and Guernsey. They have the fifth best away record in the league, winning 11 of their 17 games on the road, scoring an average of 1.8 goals in the process.
Last Six Games (League only)
Lewes – W 3 D 0 L 2 GS 12 GA 11 Pts 9
Hythe Town – W 2 D 2 L 2 GS 7 GA 6 Pts 8
Last time we met – Hythe Town 4 Lewes 0 – December 2016
Darren Freeman’s side was beset with injuries, with captain Stacey Freeman, Jamie Brotherton, Lloyd Cotton and Alex Malins all missing. Their cause was further hindered when Jack Dixon was harshly sent off just before half-time.
Despite the makeshift defence, the Rooks started the brighter of the two sides. A burst down the left from Culley saw a ball beautifully squared for Okoh, but the Hythe defender just got a toe to the shot and it skimmed over the bar. Lewes went even closer moments later, after Culley once again broke free down the left and found his man in the middle. Dixon struck the shot firmly, but keeper Joe Mant made a tremendous reflex save.
Hythe’s first goal, after 20 minutes, was an early Christmas present. Ryan Johnson was left completely unmarked as a corner was swung in from the right, and his firm header gave Winterton no chance.
While Lewes were handing out presents, the referee was handing out cards – Dixon, Uade and Culley were all booked for seemingly innocous offences. Before the half was out, Dixon had picked up a second caution. Despite making little or no contact with the Hythe right-back, the defender went down like he was auditioning for the remake of Platoon. The ref bought the theatrics, and Lewes were reduced to ten. Moments later, they were even further in arreas. Once again a corner wasn’t properly cleared, and Alfie May rifled in the first of his hat-trick.
Take nothing away from Hythe – despite Lewes’s injury and early bath problems, Hythe were sensational, none more so than May, who made it 3-0 shortly after half-time, slotting a wonderful low drive past Winterton. The fourth was his simplest goal of the night, as he tapped in a cross from the right.
With only an hour gone, the travelling Rooks fans were praying for fog to draw an end to proceedings. At least the goals dried up, and Lewes had several decent chances of their own in the closing stages, none more so than a Gus Sow shot that had beaten the keeper but struck Stephen Okoh on the line. One of those nights.
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, George, Harrington, Uade, Hammond, Okoh (Kealy, 76), Conlon (Sow, 60), Culley (Smith, 49), Dixon, Coppola
Last time we met at The Dripping Pan
This will be Hythe Town’s first every competitive visit to The Dripping Pan.
Kick off on Saturday at The Dripping Pan is 3pm.