An impressive team performance saw Lewes return to the top of
the league with a superb 2-1 victory against pre-match league leaders Cray Wanderers, writes Tom Harper.
Darren Freeman made two changes to the side that beat
Chipstead in their previous game, with Lloyd Cotton and Charlie Coppola
replacing Liam Wilson (who has returned to his studies in the US) and Bouwe Bosma in the starting line-up.
Cray had overtaken Lewes and moved to the top of the league
with an emphatic 9-1 victory over Ashford United on Wednesday and would have
expected to be on the front foot from the start.
However, Lewes were the side who started well and took the
lead inside the first minute through Omarr Lawson, who latched onto a perfectly-weighted
through-ball and calmly slotted the ball through the legs of Nick Blue to score
his first goal for the club and get the Rooks off to the perfect start.
Lewes were in dreamland just nine minutes later as they were
awarded a penalty after Jamie Brotherton was fouled in the area by Mitchell
Brotherton took the spot-kick, and rolled it into the bottom
corner to double Lewes’s lead.
Cray looked to pass the ball out from the back at every
opportunity, but were finding it difficult to turn possession into clear-cut
opportunities against a well-organised Lewes side.
As well as looking solid defensively, the Rooks continued to
pose a threat going forward, as Gus Sow saw a goal-bound effort deflected over
the bar by Nelson before Lawson forced Blue into a smart save low down to his
right with a strike from the edge of the area.
Lewes came even closer to extending their lead just before
the break, as Steve Brinkhurst ran onto a Billy Medlock through-ball but
scuffed his shot straight at Blue with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Unsurprisingly, the hosts made a bright start to the second
half and saw both Charlie MacDonald and Brandon Scott denied by Chris Winterton
as they looked to find a route back into the game.
Cray were able to deservedly pull a goal back after 68
minutes, as Ben Mundele was played in down the right and saw his cross-shot
helped over the line from close range by a combination of MacDonald and the
covering Frankie Chappell.
Despite seeing their lead halved, Lewes very nearly regained
their two-goal advantage within a minute, as Brotherton saw an effort from a
tight angle hit the side-netting after an excellent passing move in midfield.
The hosts were dominating possession at this stage though,
with the Rooks being pushed back for long periods as they looked to hold onto
Cray were sending plenty of players forward as they looked
for an equaliser, with their best chance coming with just over five minutes
remaining, as Winterton was forced into a superb save low down to his left to
keep out a powerful effort from the edge of the area that seemed set for the
bottom corner after the Rooks had been unable to clear a long throw from the
Having tried to play out from the back throughout the game,
the hosts were now launching long balls towards the penalty area, but the Lewes
back four, superbly marshalled by the outstanding Chappell and Cotton,
dealt with these relatively comfortably as the game moved into injury-time.
The Rooks’ task was made easier in the closing stages, as
Cray saw Barney Williams shown a straight red card for what appeared to be
dissent and Nelson also shown his marching orders after catching Cotton with
The final whistle was greeted with jubilant celebrations from
the Lewes players and the superb contingent of travelling supporters, with at
least 150 fans making the journey from East Sussex and helping the players over
the line in this top-of-the-table clash.
Lewes will hope to build on this result when they host Walton
Casuals at the Pan next Saturday, kick-off at 3pm.
Cray Wanderers: Blue, Mundele, Williams, Leader,
Nelson, Dawson, Henry (Carpenter 46), Dent (Power 83), MacDonald, Dadson
(Lawrence 66), Scott.
Unused Subs: Frieter, Evans.
Booked: Nelson, Carpenter.
Sent off: Williams, Nelson.
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, Redwood,
Hammond, Chappell, Cotton, Lawson, Sow, Medlock (Smith 71), Brotherton (Reed
75), Coppola (Conlon 55).
Unused Subs: Bosma, Hurley.
Booked: Hammond, Chappell, Lawson.