An excellent second-half performance, including a hat-trick from the impressive Jamie Brotherton, helped Lewes to their biggest league win of the season against a Cray Wanderers side who finished the game with nine men at the Pan reports Tom Harper.
Darren Freeman made one change to the side that had won at Walton Casuals on Wednesday, with Stacey Freeman replacing the injured James Hammond on the starting line-up. There was also a place on the bench for new signing Stephen Okoh.
The Rooks made a bright start and could have taken the lead early on through Duncan Culley, who showed good persistence to hold off two Cray defenders but saw his effort when clean through well saved by Nick Blue in the visitor’s goal.
It was therefore slightly against the run of play when Cray took the lead with their first real opportunity of the game after 20 minutes. Danny Haynes was the scorer, as he was left unmarked at the far post to head a cross from the right past Lucas Covolan.
Lewes remained on the front foot though, and were level just six minutes later through Lloyd Harrington, who sent a powerful half-volley from just inside the area past Blue and into the bottom corner after the visitors had been unable to clear a Steve Brinkhurst cross from the right.
Cray came into the game on the back of a five-match winning streak in the league and played the ball out from the back with confidence, although they were unable to trouble a well-organised Lewes defence for much of the remainder of the half.
However, the visitors were able to regain their lead five minutes before the break. Lea Dawson was the scorer, reacting quickest to finish from close range after Covolan had made a fine save to keep out a Haynes header.
Lewes should arguably have gone into half-time level, as Culley could only send a tame effort straight at Blue from close range after good build-up play.
The Rooks made the perfect start to the second half by equalising within a minute of the restart. They are unlikely to score a more simple goal all season, as a long throw from Harrington was flicked on at the near post by Freeman, leaving Brotherton with an easy finish from inside the six-yard box to level the scores.
Lewes took the lead for the first time just five minutes later, with Brotherton appearing to get the final touch on a looping Lloyd Cotton header from a Jack Dixon corner to help the ball past two defenders on the line.
After starting the second half so well, the Rooks were playing with plenty of confidence and looked capable of scoring every time they went forward.
Lewes were handed a further boost just after the hour when the visitors were reduced to ten men, as Jeysiva Sivapathasundaram was shown a straight red card for a high challenge on Charlie Coppola after a sliced clearance from Blue.
The Rooks doubled their lead after 78 minutes in spectacular fashion, as Brotherton sent a superb curling effort from 25 yards past the helpless Blue and into the top corner at the end of an incisive counter-attack to complete his hat-trick.
Things got even worse for Cray with ten minutes remaining, as Haynes was shown a red card for his reaction to a strong challenge from Harrington. Darren Freeman was also sent to the stands for entering the field of play, although the referee ignored a similar transgression from their bench.
Despite this, Lewes continued to push forward and scored their fifth goal with six minutes remaining through Culley, who finished from close range after a Dixon corner had not been cleared. The Rooks played out the closing stages comfortably to secure their biggest league win of the season and move to within five points of the play-offs.
Lewes will hope to build on another impressive result when they travel to Three Bridges on Tuesday, kick-off at 7.45pm.
Lewes: Covolan, Brinkhurst, George, Harrington, Freeman, Cotton, Culley, Conlon, Brotherton (Uade 87), Dixon, Coppola.
Unused Subs: Smith, Okoh, Perry, Dramis.
Cray Wanderers: Blue, Mundele, Sivapathasundarm, Leader, Lorraine, Dawson, Prescott (Osibodu 74), Roberts, Haynes, Dent (Woods-Garness 85), Brandon (Solomon 85).
Unused Subs: Osifuwa, McKinlay.
Sent off: Sivapathasundarm, Haynes.
Referee: James Robinson