Lewes were unable to end Darren Freeman’s tenure on a high, as the Rooks suffered a 3-2 defeat against an impressive Cray Wanderers side at the Pan, reports Tom Harper.
Freeman made one change to the side that lost 1-0 at East Thurrock United in their previous game, with Kayne Diedrick-Roberts replacing Michael Onovwigun in the starting line-up.
There were few chances of note for either side early on, but the Rooks took the lead after 23 minutes, Dayshonne Golding latching onto a Peter Gregory through-ball and rounding former Lewes goalkeeper Lewis Carey before slotting the ball into the empty net.
The visitors equalised ten minutes later through Joe Taylor, who spotted Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke slightly off his line and executed a perfect lob from a tight angle which nestled just inside the far post.
This goal seemed to take Lewes by surprise as without dominating the game, they had looked relatively comfortable since taking the lead.
Cray soon found themselves in the ascendacy though, and went ahead themselves on the stroke of half-time, as Mitchell Nelson was on hand to finish from close range after a free-kick from the right wasn’t cleared.
The visitors should have doubled their lead before the break, with Stroomberg doing well to deny Taylor after the striker had dispossessed Frankie Chappell.
Cray were able to double their lead five minutes into the second half, Andre Coker applying the finishing touch to an incisive passing move to leave the Rooks with a mountain to climb.
Lewes saw plenty of possession throughout the second half, but were unable to turn it into clear-cut opportunities against a Cray side who always looked dangerous on the break.
The visitors should have put the game to bed in the final ten minutes, but saw Stroomberg-Clarke make a fine save to deny Coker at the end of a purposeful run that started on the edge of his own area.
The Rooks found a route back into the game with five minutes remaining, as substitute Stefan Ilic was on hand to steer the ball home from close range after Carey had only been able to parry a Jordy Mongoy cross back into the danger area.
Lewes pushed for an equaliser for the remainder of the game, but were unable to force Carey into any meaningful action and were left to reflect on a disappointing spell either side of half-time which ultimately cost them the game.
The majority of the impressive 648-strong crowd stayed behind after the game to show their appreciation for Freeman, whose four years at the club included a promotion and the best football seen at the Pan for several years.
Highlights from the game captured by Your Instant Replay can be viewed here, whilst Darren’s last video interview can be seen here.
The Progcast can be read here and James Boyes’s excellent photos can be seen here.
The Rooks will hope to put this result behind them and return to winning ways under the caretaker management team of Ross Standen and Tony Coade when they welcome Corinthian Casuals to the Pan on Wednesday, kick-off at 7.45pm.
Lewes: Stroomberg-Clarke, Day, Redwood, Dome-Bemwin, Chappell, Malins, Coppola (Bloor 82), Hammond, Gregory (Mongoy 72), Diedrick-Roberts (Ilic 53), Golding.
Unused Subs: Freeman, Onovwigun.
Cray Wanderers: Carey, Williams, Carlse, Leader, Nelson, Taylor, Dent (Phipp 65), Pritchard, Coker, Mundele (Murphy 38) , Allen.
Unused Subs: Federico, Lewis, Okonkwo.
Booked: Dent, Nelson
Referee: Shelby Elson
Attendance: 648 (Approx. 25 away fans)