Lewes got the new year off to the worst possible start after being out-battled by Horsham in the Sussex derby, reports Stuart Fuller.
With Jack Dixon starting his suspension, Darren Freeman went with a youthful midfield, bringing in James Hammond and Charlie Coppola from the side that won on Saturday, whilst Stacey Freeman made his long-awaited return to partner Alex Malins, and it was the Lewes skipper who had the first chance of the game as his header from a Kaja corner was cleared off the line in the tenth minute.
However it was the visitors who took the lead in the 23rd minute when Lewis Hyde headed home unmarked and unchallenged five yards out from a corner on the left. Lewes looked to bounce back with a neat exchange of play between Ronnie Conlon and James Hammond but the midfielder’s shot cleared the bar and the Ham Lane terrace.
The Rooks tried to get the wide men into the game but the Horsham full-backs had done their homework and doubled up to close down Coppola and Kaja when they could, meaning the game was being played in a crowded midfield with niggly fouls punctuating the flow. However Horsham’s second goal was worthy of a bigger stage. Former Rook George Branford controlled a ball nearly 30 yards out, allowed it to bounce once then smashed it home to double the visitors lead.
Lewes came out for the second half looking to quickly get back into the game but the visitors defended stoutly, trying to slow the game down as and when they could. The referee managed to book eleven players despite there not being one malicious tackle in the game, frustrating both sides and the raucous crowd. The Rooks fans finally had something to shout about when first Egli Kaja went close after linking up with substitute Jamie Brotheton then Jonté Smith acrobatically turned in a bouncing ball from a Brotherton cross to make it 2-1.
Despite a late flurry of activity Lewes couldn’t find another goal and suffered their first home league defeat since early October. After calming down a little bit, Darren spoke about the game and his thoughts on why we lost:-
Next up for the Rooks is a tricky trip to play-off candidates Corinthian Casuals next Saturday, 7th January, kick off 3pm.
Lewes: Munoz-Fernandez, Brinkhurst, George, Harrington, Freeman (Sow – 76 mins), Malins, Kaja, Conlon (Brotherton – 68 mins), Smith, Hammond, Coppola
Subs not used: Whitmore, Kealy, Stewart-Hunter
Booked: Harrington, Malins, Smith, Hammond, Brotherton
Horsham: Pelling, Duncan, Farmer, Harris, Jones, Hyde, Branford, Kirkwood (Smith – 90 mins), Gaskin (Andrade – 82 mins), Lawley, Boswell (Price – 74 mins)
Sub not used: Sackman
Booked: Duncan, Harris, Jones, Hyde, Kirkwood, Price
Referee: Alex Blake