The Rooks came back from a freezing cold Ramsgate yesterday with a hard-earned point in a game of little goal-mouth action, reports Stuart Fuller.
Darren Freeman made a number of enforced changes from the side that beat Herne Bay last Saturday, with Lloyd Harrington starting his three-game ban and Egli Kaja returning to AFC Wimbledon, whilst Jamie Brotherton was fit enough to take a place on the bench after his knee injury at Corinthian Casuals two weeks ago.
On arrival at the ground it was clear that the pitch was only borderline in terms of playability, with sections of the ground still appearing to be frozen. However, the Ramsgate ground staff had worked hard to make it one of the only games playable in the South-East of England. The freezing conditions and firm playing surface made early exchanges fairly even, with neither side about to take control of the game.
In fact the first real moment of interest occurred in the 29th minute and led to the home side taking the lead. A ball over the top of the Lewes defence saw Tom Chapman race in on the Rooks goal. However he was stopped, illegally, by a Lloyd Cotton challenge which resulted in a penalty for the home side. The rule changes last summer meant that the Lewes skipper only received a yellow card, some consolation after Chapman had sent Adria Munoz-Fernandez the wrong way from the spot kick.
A few minutes later young Dean Stewart-Hunter slipped on the icy surface as he went into a challenge with Sam Lawford, which saw both players down. It was the Lewes player who came off worst, appearing to be knocked unconscious in the challenge that resulted in him departing for A & E and a debut for fellow Acadamey player, Harry Reed.
Lewes then had their two best chances of the half. First Jonté Smith played in Stephen Okoh but his recent good form in one on one situations with the keeper deserted him and he hit the ball straight at Luke Watkins. A few minutes later it was Okoh’s turn to be provider when he pulled the ball back from the touchline and Jonté found himself with the ball at his feet 8 yards out but with five Ramsgate players on the line to block his shot.
Jamie Brotherton replaced Ronnie Conlon at half-time as the Rooks looked to get themselves back into the game. Once again it was the home side who started brighter, with Adria make two smart saves to keep the score line at just 1-0. Finally on the hour the Rooks were on level terms. Another Smith-Okoh link up saw the ball finding Jonté eight yards out and his shot could only be parried into the net.
As the sun set and temperatures plummeted both sides tried to press for a winner, but the freezing conditions were the winner in the end as honours were even at the final whistle. After being assessed by Doctors at Margate’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Dean Stewart-Hunter was released late Saturday night and will not be missing for the mandatory three weeks as required for any head injuries where concussion is the diagnosis.
With few other teams around the Rooks in action, it was a valuable point that closed the gap between the teams in the Play-off places, which Darren underlined in his post-match interview.
The Rooks now face a double header against second place Dorking Wanderers, the first game of which is next Saturday at Westhumble, kick off 3pm.
Ramsgate: Watkins, Kane, Penny, Crimmen, Wheatley, Gray, Lawford (Mackenzie – 82 mins), Girt, Chapman, Lawrence, Paxman
Subs not used: Mensah, Munday, Lewins, Robers
Lewes: Munoz-Fernandez, Brinkhurst, Stewart-Hunter (Reed – 36 mins), Conlon (Brotherton – 46 mins), Cotton, Malins, Okoh, Dixon, Smith (Bown – 83 mins), Hammond, Coppola
Subs not used: Sow, Winterton