A late free-kick from Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala helped Lewes secure a deserved point with a 1-1 draw at Cray Wanderers. Report by Tom Harper, photos from James Boyes.
Tony Russell handed a debut to new signing Sanchez Ming at right-back, and was also able to name both Ryan Gondoh and Marcus Sablier on the bench on their return from injury.
The hosts started brightly and saw Gary Lockyer send a powerful strike straight at Nathan Harvey early on, before George Porter fired a close-range shot on the turn narrowly wide after the Lewes defence had been unable to clear a deep free-kick.
Lewes soon started to enjoy plenty of the ball though, and came close to taking the lead through Archie Tamplin, who hit the post with a powerful effort after being found in space by Ola Ogunwamide at the end of an incisive move down the right.
Cray made the most of this let-off by taking the lead on 38 minutes, as a Frankie Raymond corner was headed back across goal by Lockyer for the unmarked Tayo Oyebola to head past Harvey from close range.
They nearly doubled their lead within minutes, Lockyer shooting just wide from 25 yards after a misplaced defensive header landed at his feet.
Lewes regained their composure and could quite easily have gone in level at half-time, only for Jake Elliott to head a Tamplin free-kick wide at the far post.
The Rooks started the second half brightly, with Ming seeing a goal-bound effort blocked after good play down the left by Lumbombo-Kalala.
Lewes were dominating possession at this stage, moving the ball quickly through the pitch and always looking capable of getting in behind the Cray defence.
The host’s goalkeeper Shaun Rowley was soon at full stretch to deny Chris Whelpdale, before Lumbombo-Kalala saw his strike on the rebound deflected over the bar.
The introduction of Gondoh and Sablier midway through the second half gave the Rooks even more attacking impetus, although their spells of possession were continually met with stubborn, well-organised defending by Cray.
When they did breach the home defence, Lewes continued to meet resistance in the form of Rowley, who made another fine save to deny Lumbombo-Kalala before reacting well to hold onto a powerful strike from Tamplin after the loose ball had been worked to him just inside the area.
Just when it was starting to look as though the Rooks were going to be left to reflect on a frustrating afternoon, they scored a thoroughly deserved equaliser with five minutes remaining, Lumbombo-Kalala seeing his 25-yard free-kick just squeeze past Rowley at the near post to level the scores.
Lewes spent the final five minutes and injury-time camped inside the Cray half as they pushed for a winner, with Ming shooting just over the bar and Sam Oguntayo calling Rowley into action from a tight angle.
This would be the closest Lewes would come to a late winner though, with the Rooks having to be content with a point heading into another busy run of fixtures.
Next up for Lewes is a trip to Canvey Island on Tuesday, kick-off at 7.45pm.
Cray Wanderers: Rowley, Kwatchey, Ijaha, Black, Mascoll, Beere, Raymond, Brown (Bamba 87), Porter (Cook 53), Oyebola (Wood 82), Lockyer.
Unused Subs: Evans, Brooke.
Booked: Ijaha, Mascoll.
Lewes: Harvey, Ming, Vint, Elliott, Oguntayo, Penney, Tamplin (Wood 74), Pritchard (Sablier 66), Ogunwamide (Gondoh 66), Lumbombo-Kalala, Whelpdale.
Unused Subs: Olukoga, Salmon.
Booked: Oguntayo, Ogunwamide, Whelpdale, Gondoh.
Attendance: 343 (approximately 100 Rooks fans)