The Rooks came, saw and conquered a Guernsey side yesterday who have one of the best home records in the division in a highly entertaining, if slightly fractious game at Footes Lane in front of an impressive travelling support.
Darren wisely took a squad of 18 onto the plane at Gatwick, with his resources tested in the warm-up when Ronnie Conlon felt unwell and was replaced in the starting XI by James Hammond, with Callum Kealy completing the bench. Duncan Culley, back from suspension, was to lead the line in what was an otherwise unchanged starting XI.
Despite the 5am start for many of the squad, the Rooks looked composed in the opening minutes, looking to get the ball behind the Guernsey full-backs. However, with their first meaningful attack of the game Guernsey found themselves ahead when McGrath tried to wiggle between the Rooks centre-backs and went to ground. No one appealed for a foul nor did the linesman indicate any offence but the referee pointed to the spot and McGrath sent Winterton the wrong way.
Lewes continued to press with Culley heading wide whilst the Guernsey keeper had his palms stung by a powerful effort by Harrington. Dubious decisions were evened up as Brotherton initially broke clear of his man in the area before a timely challenge saw the ball nicked off his toes. However, the referee deemed the tackle saw the man played before the ball and awarded a penalty to Lewes. Brotherton, slightly bemused at the decision, stepped up and hit his penalty too high, striking the bar then Hammond heading the rebound over.
Despite the pressure on the Guernsey goal, The Rooks couldn’t create any clear-cut chances until the 38th minute when once again Brotherton provided the assist, crossing low across the six yard box for Culley to bundle home via a Guernsey player’s leg. Lewes would have added a second a few minutes later if it wouldn’t have been for Addison’s excellent save from Hammond. The first half saw Lewes have 12 shots to Guernsey’s 1.
The second half started with the Rooks half-asleep and Guernsey came within a whisker of setting up a 1 on 1 with Winterton. At the other end the Lewes fans had to duck for cover as Jack Dixon’s shot from distance skimmed the bar. The players were getting a bit tetchy, not helped by the referee who seemed to lose control of the game as it wore on. Lloyd Cotton reacted strongly to a challenge off the ball that saw him put on the ground, whilst a few choice challenges by the Lewes midfield went unpunished.
On 65 minutes a good ball into the box from Matty George saw Culley hook the ball over the advancing keeper Addison from a tight angle but drift wide. Addison clattered into Culley potentially unable to pull out of his challenge in time. The referee deemed it was a foul and awarded a penalty and issued the keeper with a yellow card. With Brotherton off the pitch Jack Dixon stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way. Finally, The Rooks had their noses in front.
The lead wasn’t to last for long though. Brinkhurst’s back header saw McGrath run into space behind Freeman and his low cross was turned in by Rihoy. The Rooks needed to respond quickly and that’s what they did. First an amazing series of shots were blocked by a variety of Guernsey players on the floor as well as a post before Culley volleyed in a wonder-goal. Alas, the referee had just blown for an offside offence.
But with ten minutes to go we went back into the lead again. Dixon won the ball in midfield, beat his man and then let rip from 25 yards into the top corner. It was a superb effort BUT even better was to follow a few minutes later. A Guernsey corner was cleared and picked up by Okoh almost on the edge of his own area. The pacy wide man ran, initially towards the corner, rode a tackle then cut inside, past three defenders and curled it into the top corner. Few Lewes fans will have seen a better goal and unsurprisingly the celebrations were exuberant.
Full time saw some wild celebrations with the travelling Lewes fans and a strong return to winning ways after the disappointing draw last Saturday.
Next up a trip to South Park FC on Wednesday, 30th November 2016, kick off 7:45pm.
Guernsey: Addison, Geall (Mackay – 73 mins), Dodd, Steel, Loaring, Dodds, Rihoy, De La Mare (Legg – 68 mins), McGrath, Periera (Fallaize – 48 mins), Mahon
Subs not used: Kelly, Wiltshire
Cautions: Addison, Geall, Dodd, McGrath
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, George, Harrington, Freeman, Cotton, Culley, Hammond (Uade – 68 mins), Brotherton (Okoh – 63 mins), Coppola (Smith – 70 mins)
Subs not used: Kealy, Sow
Cautions: Harrington, Dixon