Lewes came away from Horsham last night with a hard-fought 2-1 victory with influential centre-back Stacey Freeman suffering a fractured jaw that will see him miss the start of the Ryman South campaign, reports Stuart Fuller.
Despite Horsham YMCA Southern Combination Premier League status, Darren Freeman fielded a very strong starting XI, although injuries and illness in the centre of the field deprived him of Lloyd Cotton, Ronnie Conlon and Tom Vickers, with a trialist starting alongside James Hammond in midfield. At the back Alex Malins returned from holiday to partner Stacey Freeman, whilst the four attacking options were as they were against Eastbourne Borough.
Horsham started brightly with former Rook Max Howell proving a problem down the right-hand side on a number of occasions, whilst they looked at trying to beat Winterton from distance. Lewes looked at dragging the YMCA defence as wide as possible, with Josh Jones and Charlie Coppola looking at cutting inside whenever they had an opportunity.
The opening goal came after 25 minutes when a deep Josh Jones corner was well met by Stacey Freeman at the far post. Horsham YMCA then had a spell of pressure, creating some half-chances that troubled Chris Winterton but ultimately the goal remain intact. In the 40th minute, a superb cross-field ball found Charlie Coppola who accelerated passed the defender and smacked the ball home from the edge of the box to double the Rooks lead.
The second half saw Coppola withdrawn, replaced by Alex Laing who looked to cause the YMCA defence, whilst Lloyd Dawes continued to try and find any opportunity to register his first goal for the Rooks since joining from Worthing. Horsham YMCA created a few decent chances and it was no surprise when they pulled a goal back with twenty minutes to play with an almost identical move to the Lewes opener, with their centre-back heading home unmarked from a deep corner.
The standard raft of changes from both sides disrupted the pattern of play in the last quarter but Lewes finished the stronger and should have scored a third with Alex Laing coming close with a decent effort.
Lewes: Winterton (Stroomberg), Brinkhurst (Dramis), Gore, Hammond, Freeman (Badger), Malins, Coppola (Laing), A Trialist (C Trialist), Perry (Greenfield), Dawes, Jones (B Trialist)