Tony Russell says he hopes to learn a lot about his newly-built team when Lewes FC take on Bishop’s Stortford in the Isthmian Premier League this Saturday.
The Rooks are unbeaten heading into the new season and entertained more than 800 fans on the new pitch in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Carshalton.
Russell is now preparing his troops for the arrival of Bishop’s Stortford, who narrowly missed out on promotion last season.
And the boss is pleased to face a tough opponent that, he believes, can help him discover the weaknesses he still needs to address in his own side.
“Bishop’s Stortford will be a great test for us. They finished second in the league last season, kept pretty much their whole squad and added one or two more,” says Russell.
“They’re an excellent side and were second in the league for a reason.
“We’ll find out where we’re at with this game, to be honest. We’ve got a lot of new players and we’ve still got to learn and work on improving.
“This will be the best test. You couldn’t have picked a better game because any weaknesses we’ve got, they will find them out. We’re going to have to play well to get any result because they’re an excellent side.”
‘Let’s find out exactly where we’re at’
Two goals from Deon Moore earned the Rooks their first win of the season in midweek, which came after the 1-1 draw at Wingate & Finchley last Saturday.
And Russell is keen to entertain the fans once again!
“We’re looking forward to this. It’ll be a fantastic test and hopefully the fans can all turn up in their numbers again and be vocal, like they were on Tuesday,” he says.
“The boys are excited here – so let’s find out exactly where we’re at with this squad and what we need to work on! We’ve done the prep work, so hopefully we see everyone at the Dripping Pan making loads of noise.”
Fans can still get their tickets for Saturday’s 3pm kick off – and for many this might be the first chance to see the new pitch in action.
Reflecting back on Tuesday’s performance, Russell is keen to get going once more on the fresh turf.
“Tuesday was exciting for everyone. It was our chance to play again in front of our home fans and on a new pitch,” he says.
“I thought we were good in the first half, controlled the game and created some good half-chances.
“At half time I said “look, there’s 800-plus fans in here, let’s have a go, be more positive and up the tempo”. And I thought we did that at the start of the second half. We were excellent. Our passing was quicker, our intent was there, and but for some really good goalkeeping and poor finishing it should have been more. Thankfully we did get that second goal to see the game out.
“That was a great result, a brilliant crowd in. That’s the biggest I’ve seen this week, so thank you for everyone who came out and made it so special under the lights. I hope they enjoyed it just as much as we did.”
Word from the opposition
We’re just two games into the Isthmian Premier League season but already three teams have set the pace with maximum points – and Bishop’s Stortford is one of those.
They followed up a 2-1 victory over Haringey Borough last weekend with a 1-0 result at Potters Bar on Tuesday. Chris Harris grabbed the winner in only the third minute at Potters Bar, as the Blues ground out the victory in front of 252 supporters.
Looking ahead to the Lewes clash, manager Steve Smith told Bishop’s Stortford’s Youtube channel: “They’ll be decent on their own patch, the new pitch down there is apparently like a carpet. So they’ll be popping it about.
“But I’ve set us two points a game and we’re already two ahead of where we should be. We’ll go there confident of getting the result, and people who weren’t involved Tuesday may be involved Saturday. It’s a game we look forward to. We’re confident of getting something, that’s for sure.”
Bishop’s Stortford goalkeeper Jack Giddens added: “It’s another tough trip. The new pitch will be nice and I’m looking forward to it. I always get a nice bit of stick from their fans which I enjoy! It keeps me on my toes. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Lewes lost 1-0 to Bishop’s Stortford at the Pan back in March, but did claim a point from the trip to the ProKit UK Stadium last November.
Lewes FC vs Bishop’s Stortford tickets
You can buy Lewes FC tickets for the game, which kicks off at 3pm on Saturday, are available to buy now online or at the gate.
Ticket prices are as follows:
• Adults – £12 general admittance online
• Concessions – £8 general admittance online
• Kids (under 16) – free!
• Beach hut for six people – £110
Photo: James Boyes