An impressive attacking display saw Lewes record their third consecutive league win in an action-packed Sussex derby at Three Bridges reports Tom Harper.
Darren Freeman named an unchanged side after Saturday’s emphatic victory over Cray Wanderers, and the Rooks made a bright start, with Ronnie Conlon testing former Lewes goalkeeper Kieron Thorp early on with an attempted chip after good build-up play down the left.
Lewes were enjoying the majority of the possession and took the lead after 16 minutes through Duncan Culley, who headed in a Charlie Coppola cross at the far post despite the best efforts of Thorp to claw the ball off the line. The Rooks continued to press and had a great chance to double their lead just minutes later, as Culley forced a fine save from Thorp, and Jamie Brotherton seemed to kick the ball against his standing foot on the rebound with most of the goal to aim for.
Three Bridges came into the game as the half progressed and had the chance to equalise when a Devon Fender cross from the right wasn’t cleared by the Lewes defence, and a combination of Lucas Covolan, several covering defenders and the post somehow prevented Maxime Agnoly levelling the scores from close range.
Lewes were looking dangerous every time they went forward though, and saw Conlon force another impressive save from Thorp low down to his left after more good play down the left. The final chance of the half fell to the hosts, with Agnoly heading a Jay Conroy cross wide at the far post.
After dominating much of the first half, the Rooks made a slow start to the second and were punished twice by Three Bridges within five minutes of the restart.
The hosts equalised inside the first minute of the half, with the ball being worked to the left to Kieran Djilali, whose tame effort appeared to go through the dive of Covolan on its way into the back of the net. Three Bridges took the lead just minutes later through Hakeem Adelakun, who sent a superb curling effort from just inside the area past Covolan and into the top corner after good build-up play down the right.
The Rooks were forced into their first substitution as soon as they went behind, with Lloyd Cotton picking up an injury in the build-up to the goal. He was replaced by debutant Stephen Okoh, with Lloyd Harrington moving into defence.
Okoh made an immediate impact and levelled the scores just three minutes after his introduction, heading a Brotherton centre into the roof of the net from close range after the home defence had been unable to clear a Stacey Freeman free-kick.
Lewes were seeing plenty of the ball again and regained the lead after 67 minutes, as Coppola played in Conlon, whose close-range effort found the back of the net despite the best efforts of Thorp at the end of an incisive counter-attack.
The Rooks continued to push forward, and saw Culley force a good save from Thorp after latching onto a Brotherton through-ball. Lewes deservedly doubled their lead with 17 minutes remaining, as Brotherton was left unmarked to send a powerful finish into the roof of the net from close range after a Jack Dixon corner had not been cleared.
Any hopes that the impressive travelling contingent of Rooks fans had for a comfortable end to the game were dashed just three minutes later, as Fender crossed from the right for substitute Tony Garrod to finish at the near post to bring the hosts back into the game, after the referee appeared to miss a foul in the build up.
Three Bridges spent most of the closing stages pushing for an equaliser and their best chance fell to Agnoly, who latched onto a long kick forward from Thorp and cut inside before missing the target with only Covolan to beat. The Rooks had a good chance to make the game safe at the start of stoppage time, as Okoh latched onto a pass from Coppola but saw his close range effort saved by Thorp.
Lewes finally secured all three points with virtually the last kick of the game, as Dixon sent a low shot from 20 yards past Thorp and into the bottom corner to make it 5-3.
This was another impressive result for Lewes, who dominated much of the first half and regained control of the game after a poor start to the second, with the in-form Thorp preventing a more comfortable win for the Rooks.
Next up for Lewes is a trip to Kingstonian in the first qualifying round of the FA Trophy on Sunday, kick-off at 3pm.
Three Bridges: Thorp, Conroy, Helsdown (Mobsby 22), Howard-Bold, Cooney, Crellin, Fender, Wilson (Garrod 73), Agnoly, Adelakun, Djilali.
Unused Subs: Hayles, Sargent, Lansdale.
Booked: Cooney, Crellin, Mobsby.
Lewes: Covolan, Brinkhurst, George, Harrington, Freeman, Cotton (Okoh 53), Culley, Conlon, Brotherton (Uade 79), Dixon, Coppola.
Unused Subs: Smith, Perry, Dramis.