A disappointing performance saw ten-man Lewes fall to a heavy derby defeat against East Sussex rivals Hastings at the Pilot Field reports Tom Harper.
Darren Freeman made two changes to the side that had lost to Whitehawk in their previous game, with Lloyd Harrington and Jonte Smith replacing Ronnie Conlon and Egli Kaja in the starting line-up.
The hosts had won their previous two games without conceding, including an impressive 4-0 victory at Tooting & Mitcham United, and made a bright start, with Frannie Collin latching onto a through-ball from Harry Stannard but seeing his tame effort when through on goal comfortably saved by Chris Winterton.
Lewes also looked dangerous when they had the ball early on though, and saw Charlie Coppola shoot straight at Lenny Pidgeley in the Hastings goal after running onto a flick-on from Jonte Smith.
Hastings took the lead in impressive fashion after just 17 minutes, with Stannard sending a superb curling effort from the left-hand side of the penalty area across Winterton and into the top corner.
The Rooks were struggling to get a foot-hold in the game against an experienced Hastings midfield, with a mis-hit cross from Stephen Okoh that dropped just wide of the far post being the closest they came to an immediate response.
A tough task was made even more difficult for Lewes five minutes before the break, as Jack Dixon was shown a second yellow card for a cynical foul on the edge of the area after earlier picking up a booking for dissent.
Collin curled the resulting free-kick over the wall and into the corner to double the host’s lead and leaving the Rooks with a real mountain to climb if they wanted to get anything from the game.
Collin nearly doubled his tally for the afternoon just before the break with another free-kick, with Winterton reacting well to push the ball onto the crossbar before it was eventually cleared.
Hastings made a bright start to the second half, and saw Collin go close twice within minutes of the restart, sending a half-volley just wide after a Matt Bodkin cross had not been cleared, before forcing Winterton into a smart save at his near post.
The hosts continued to press and scored a third goal after 49 minutes through substitute Jack Harris, who latched onto a long ball forward and sent an accurate finish across Winterton and into the bottom corner.
Most of the Rooks fans who made the trip to the Pilot Field would have been fearing the worst at this stage, with over 40 minutes to play against one of the best attacking sides in the league with ten men.
To their credit, the Lewes players continued to battle for an unlikely route back into the game, as Coppola was denied by Pidgeley at his near post.
Hastings always looked capable of adding to their lead though, with Stannard drawing a fine save from Winterton with a curling effort that seemed to be heading for the bottom corner.
The Rooks enjoyed some good spells of possession in the closing stages, and saw Smith have a far-post header deflected just wide by former Lewes defender Ollie Rowe.
The final chance of the game fell to the hosts, as Bodkin rounded Winterton but saw his effort from a tight angle blocked on the line.
This was a disappointing defeat for Lewes, who never recovered from Dixon being sent off just before half-time and the resulting free-kick being converted.
They will hope to put this result behind them when they host Three Bridges on New Year’s Eve, kick-off at 1pm.
Hastings United: Pidgeley, Davies (Thorbourne 83), Butcher, Cruttwell, Rowe, Emptage, Bodkin, Johnson (Dickenson 86), Cogan (Harris 27), Collin, Stannard.
Unused Sub: Nicholls.
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, George, Harrington, Stewart-Hunter (Conlon 38), Malins, Okoh (Hammond 46), Sow, Smith, Dixon, Coppola (Kaja 66).
Unused Subs: Brotherton, Kealy.
Booked: George, Dixon.
Sent off: Dixon.
Referee: Stephen Brown