Two injury-time goals saw Lewes fall to a harsh defeat against Carshalton Athletic that all but ends their chances of reaching the play-offs with two games remaining, reports Tom Harper.
Darren Freeman made one change to the side that lost 3-2 against Corinthian Casuals in their previous game, with Ronnie Conlon replacing James Hammond in the starting line-up.
Carshalton made a bright start to the game, but were unable to turn their early possession into clear-cut opportunities. The Rooks soon found their feet though, and took the lead after 12 minutes, as Jonte Smith sent a powerful header from a Jamie Brotherton cross past Joe Tupper in the host’s goal at the end of an excellent passing move.
Lewes doubled their lead just five minutes later through Alex Malins, who saw a goal-bound effort deflected past Tupper and into the back of the net after Lloyd Cotton had headed a Gus Sow corner back across goal.
The game was end-to-end for much of the remainder of the half, with Lewes playing some impressive football and Carshalton looking dangerous every time they went forward.
Brotherton was involved in all of Lewes’ best chances and came close to making it 3-0 at the end of another incisive passing move, as he sent an effort from just inside the area wide after being teed up by Smith.
The hosts were handed an excellent chance to get back into the game just before half-time, as Chris Winterton was adjudged to have fouled Ricky Korboa in the penalty area. Fortunately for the large contingent of travelling supporters, Winterton redeemed himself by keeping out Omari Hibbert’s spot-kick that was well struck down the middle of the goal.
Carshalton made a bright start to the second half and pulled a goal back just four minutes after the restart, as Ryan Gondoh controlled a low cross from Hibbert before placing the ball past Winterton.
The scores were level just three minutes later, with Gondoh once again being given time and space in the penalty area to convert a cross from the right from Mickel Miller.
Things got even worse for Lewes just before the hour, as Cotton was harshly shown a straight red card for a strong challenge on Korboa.
Unsurprisingly, the Rooks spent much of the next 20 minutes on the back foot, with Winterton forced into smart saves to deny Gondoh and Korboa, and Miller shooting wide of the far post when clean through with only Winterton to beat.
It was therefore slightly against the run of play when Lewes took the lead again after 79 minutes through Stephen Okoh, who sent a low effort from inside the area past Tupper and just inside the far post after excellent work down the left by substitute Ian Robinson.
Robinson came close to scoring what would almost certainly have been a decisive fourth goal for the Rooks just minutes later, as he saw a superb curling effort from the edge of the area pushed onto the bar by Tupper.
Lewes saw out the remaining minutes of normal time relatively comfortably, but were dealt a blow when, to the surprise of virtually everyone in the ground, the referee added eight minutes of stoppage time.
Carshalton equalised halfway through stoppage time, as Tommy Bradford sent a curling effort from the edge of the area past Winterton.
There was still time for another twist though, as the hosts scored a winner in the eleventh minute of added time through Ryan Healy, who converted a low cross from the right at the far post to secure a dramatic three points.
This was an incredibly disappointing defeat for Lewes, who produced an impressive first-half performance but were unable to build on this after a slow start to the second half.
Despite this, their overall display arguably deserved a point, which would have kept the Rooks five points adrift of the play-offs with two games to play.
Lewes will hope to put this result behind them when they host Hastings United at the Pan on Monday, kick-off at 3pm.
Carshalton Athletic: Tupper, Price, Adeniyi, Morath-Gibbs, Gondoh (Reynolds 77), Miller, Bradford, Korboa (Davidson-Phipps 71), O. Hibbert, Panton, Healy.
Unused Subs: Kozakis, J. Hibbert, Aikhionbare.
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, Conlon, Harrington (Hammond 77), Cotton, Malins, Okoh, Sow, Smith (Hurley 59), Dixon, Brotherton (Robinson 54).
Unused Subs: Munoz-Fernandez, Bown.
Booked: Winterton, Sow, Dixon.
Sent off: Cotton.