The Rooks came very close to grabbing a late point in a dramatic last few minutes against in-form Corinthian Casuals at The Pan in a game that will be remembered for a number of decisions that went against the home side by Stuart Fuller.
Darren Freeman was thrown a spanner in the warm up when Charlie Coppola’s toe injury flared up and he was replaced in the starting line-up by Stephen Okoh, with Harry Read coming onto the bench. Lloyd Cotton returned to the back four, whilst Lloyd Harrington dropped into left-back to cover for the suspended Matthew George.
It was a cagey start by both sides, keen to feel each other out on a warm afternoon at The Pan. Neither keeper was called into action in the first quarter with the midfielders seeing the most of the ball. In the 33rd minute Casuals created the best chance of the game when Bettache left Harrington and Sow for dead in the corner, pulled the ball back for Maan and his shot hit the post and was cleared by Brinkhurst. From the resulting corner Mann rose the highest and headed home to give the visitors the lead.
The Rooks were almost level within a minute as Alex Malins flashed a shot across the danger area, wanting for the slightest of touches. We then saw the first of a number of bizarre decisions from the referee as Stephen Okoh was booked for the slightest of nudges on a Casuals player in a game where robust tackling seemed to be the norm.
The Rooks came out for the second period fired up and immediately put the visitors under pressure. Freeman brought on Ian Robinson and Ronnie Conlon and their introduction changed the course of the match. Stephen Okoh went close on the 70th minute, forcing a great save from Bracken but within 45 seconds of the Rooks corner, Casuals had doubled their lead as they broke with numbers and Shaun Okojie’s shot hit a bobble as Winterton dived to cover it and it bounced over his outstretched arm.
Three minutes later Lewes pulled a goal back as Okoh’s neat control and pinpoint pass put in Ronnie Conlon and he smashed the ball home. Four minutes later came the most controversial moment of the game when Conlon’s run into the area saw the ball pulled back to Ian Robinson and his shot was handled on the line by Jack Strange. Everyone in the ground bar the officials saw the offence and play carried on.
With the 90 minutes up, Lewes sent Chris Winterton up for a corner but the ball was cleared and whilst the Rooks keeper got back in time, his defence was still absent when Okojie scored his second after a 3 on 1 break.
Less than a minute later The Rooks had another strong shout for a penalty as Strange again the apparent transgressor as he flew into the back of Bown in the air. Both players were left with nasty head injuries but contact had been made well after the ball had been headed by Bown.
With four minutes of injury time played Lewes grabbed a second when Jonté Smith flicked on an excellent ball into the box from Jack Dixon’s free-kick but it was too little, too late as the referee blew for full-time from the restart.
It was certain a game of two-halves, with Lewes matching a very strong and organised side in the second period. The result was a bitter blow to the hopes of the Rooks Play-off prospects, especially as the performance had deserved at least a point. Darren was understandably disappointed when we spoke to Barry Collins post match:-
After Carshalton Athletic’s defeat away at Sittingbourne, the Rooks head to The Memorial Ground next Saturday knowing that a win against 5th placed Robins will still keep the Play-off dream alive. Kick off at Carshalton Athletic on Saturday is 3pm.
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, Sow, Harrington (Bown- 83mins), Cotton, Malins, Brotherton (Conlon – 69mins), Hammond (Robinson – 63mins), Smith, Dixon, Okoh
Subs not used: Hurley, Read
Bookings: Cotton, Okoh, Sow, Dixon
Corinthian-Casuals: Bracken, Morgan, Hodges, Dudley, Strange, Ekim (Dillon – 52mins), Bettache, Gallagher, Okojie (Byatt – 90mins), Mann, Clarke (Uzun – 79mins)
Subs not used: Cheklit, Oldham
Referee: Matthew Russell