Lewes’ fine run of form continued with an impressive 3-0 victory at second place Bishop’s Stortford.
Unbeaten in over a year, in a run that stretched to 32 games and seen them concede just six goals at home in this campaign, the Rooks gave arguably their best performance of the season to grab all three points and move to within four points of the play-offs. With Razz Coleman De-Graft injured, joining Johnville Renee on the sidelines, Rooks boss Tony Russell brought in Deon Moore to start, with new signings Archie Tamplin and Ryley Scott making the bench.
The Rooks started on the front foot with Joe Taylor hitting the ball over in the 2nd minute from a corner, and Jamie Mascoll forcing two saves from well-positioned free-kicks before taking the lead in the 11th minute when a mix-up between the Stortford defence and keeper Jack Giddens led to JT having the simplest of tasks to slot the ball home from six yards.
Two minutes later Lew Carey pulled off a spectacular finger tips save from Alfie Young’s back header, although the flag went up for an earlier infringement in the move, a feat he repeated from a Ryan Henshaw effort in the 25th minute. In between Tom Champion had to be alive to a strong run by Donell Thomas. But the Stortford threat in the first period was limited by some excellent midfield work by Hyde, Young and Pritchard.
Lewes always looked a threat as they broke and could have doubled their lead in the 36th minute when a great run by Deon Moore and cross-field pass saw Ryan Gondoh in but he took a touch too many and the danger passed. Just before the break Ryan Charles almost found the corner of the Lewes net with a swift turn and shot from a corner, whilst at the other end only the stickiness of the pitch denied JT a simple tap in after Gondoh repeated his flick from last week against Bognor Regis and carved open the defence.
Two minutes into the second half and Lewes had possibly the strongest claim for a penalty they have had all season when Deon Moore beat one man, cut inside but was completely upended. The referee must have been the only person in the ground who didn’t see the foul which led to the Bishop’s Stortford bench howling with laughter as they knew they had got away with that one. But the Lewes pressure didn’t let up and five minutes later Gondoh made it two-nil when he took Jamie Mascoll’s cross field pass in his stride and found the corner of the net.
The home side threw on a couple of subs and knew they needed something fast to get back into the game, but the Rooks kept causing threats on the break with JT forcing Giddens into a superb save and Deon Moore almost allowed to run through on goal. At the other end, Carey made a smart save from a powerful strike by Merrifield.
Lewes put the game to bed in the 71st minute with some style. A well worked move into the area was punted clear by the Stortford defence but an on-rushing Ayo Olukoga took one touch before smashing the ball home from 30-yards.
Stortford huffed and puffed but couldn’t find a way through the solid Lewes defence and Gondoh came within a whisker of grabbing his second and the Rooks fourth in the 90th minute when his curling effort just went wide.
Make no mistake this was as impressive and emphatic as the scoreline suggested and moves the Rooks up the table, sitting nicely just four points outside the play-offs.
The Rooks are next in action on Saturday 14th January 2023 at 3pm when Corinthian-Casuals visit the Dripping Pan.
Bishop’s Stortford: Giddens, Porter, Johnson (Church 66 mins), D Thomas (Adams 56 mins), Merrifield, Olufemi, J Thomas (Foxley 66 mins), Charles, Henshaw, Peters, Beadle
Subs not used: Haines, Atilola
Lewes: Carey, Salmon, Champion, Young, Mascoll, Olukoga, Pritchard (Scott 67 mins), Hyde, Gondoh, Moore, Taylor
Subs not used: Hall, Tamplin, Addy
Attendance: 398 (29 travelling Rooks)