A Kane Diedrick-Roberts well-taken effort in the last minute of normal time saw the Rooks go into the hat for the Quarter-Final draw of the Sussex Senior Cup, reports Stuart Fuller.
With the Under18s players unavailable due to their match schedule, Ross Standen and Tony Coade were forced to field a patched up side to face FA Cup heroes Chichester City. Youngster Emmanuel Yeboah was given his first start, whilst Ross Barclay came into the side at right-back with Leon Redwood and Dayshonne Golding rested. Harry Reed made a welcome return to the bench after his knee injury in the summer, whilst Michael Onovwigun returned from his knee injury.
The game was never going to be a classic – the freezing conditions and two tired teams meant that the opening phases were slow, with neither side really pushing far up the pitch. Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke was forced to make a smart save in the 10th minute when he got down well at his near post to keep out an effort from Iordache, whilst a string of Chichester City corners put pressure on the Rooks defence. At the other end a deep Ross Barclay cross had Mowthorpe beaten but there was no Rooks player at hand to take advantage.
In the 30th minute the home side almost took the lead in the most bizarre fashion. A kick under pressure from Mowthorpe fooled the Rooks back line and Stroomberg-Clarke assumed that his defence would deal with the ball, but it bounced on the frozen surface and almost sped past him into the net but he got a foot to the ball and diverted it for a corner.
Despite the pressure from the home side, it was the Rooks who drew first blood in the last minute of the half. A Peter Gregory cross didn’t beat the first man but when the ball came back to him he delivered a perfect ball for the on-rushing James Hammond to slot home from close range.
In the 50th minute the Rooks had a fair shout for a penalty when Heath leaned into Stefan Ilic as he ran into the area, sending the Lewes wide man to the ground but the protests were waved away by the excellent referee.
Just after the hour mark the home side were back in the game when Canadian and briefly a former Rook Emmett Dunn was allowed to waltz through the Lewes back line and he then beat Nathan at his near post.
To be honest at this stage it looked like there was only going to be one winner as Chichester piled on the pressure, showing no real signs of their FA Cup performance at Tranmere Rovers on Sunday and it was no surprise that in the 74th minute that they took the lead. Josh Clack took the ball wide and then cut back inside Tom Day, danced around a couple of defenders and beat Nathan from 10 yards.
It was even more of a surprise that the Rooks were level within 90 seconds having not shown any attacking intent for a period. Another Peter Gregory low cross and another late run from James Hammond saw the Rooks on level terms.
The goal seemed to deflate the home side and it was Lewes who went into the final ten minutes looking the stronger. With extra time beckoning Alex Malins brought the ball forward into the Chichester City half before picking out a Kane Diedrick-Roberts run to perfection. The young midfielder strode past the Chichester defence and then slotted it under the advancing keeper to give the Rooks a late winner.
The win was certainly a relief for the Rooks and perhaps slightly against the balance of play but the team must take credit for continuing to push for a winner with the game poised to go to an extra thirty minutes.
One final point to note – the Rooks conceded their first free-kick due to a foul in the 61st minute which must be a record!
After the game, a frozen Ross Standen spoke to an even colder Stuart Fuller.
The Rooks return to Isthmian League action on Saturday when we host Leatherhead at The Pan, kick-off 3pm.
Chichester City: Mowthorpe, Taw, Hutchings, Axell, Horncastle (Cody – 84mins), Peake (Heath – 46mins), Iordache (Wild – 66mins), Dunn, Clack, Rowlatt, Haitham
Subs not used: Bennetts, Kelly
Lewes: Stroomberg-Clarke, Day, Barclay, Dome-Bemwin, Chappell, Malins, Gregory, Hammond, Medlock (Reed – 60mins), Yeboah (Diedrick-Roberts – 55mins), Ilic (Onovwigun – 55 mins)
Attendance: 84 (Approx. 17 Rooks fans)