Lewes FC manager Tony Russell says the team will give their all on Saturday when facing Bowers & Pitsea at the Dripping Pan in the final game of the Isthmian Premier League season.
Victory over Bowers & Pitsea on Saturday could secure Lewes sixth place in the table – and potentially finish just three points off Russell’s start-of-season target of a playoff spot.
And the boss concedes there are a few injury issues to contend with ahead of the 3pm kick off.
“We’ve got Bowers & Pitsea on Saturday, which will be Rob Small’s last game for them. He’s a good guy is Rob, it will be good to see him and I know it will be emotional for him,” says Russell.
“We’ve got a few injuries – Pritchard and Carlse are injured, Mitch is suspended, so we’re down to the bare bones.
“We’ll do our best on Saturday, try and put on a show and end the season on a positive note.”
‘Like a scene from a war film’
Russell also took time to reflect on what has been a difficult week for him and his players, following the confirmation Lewes cannot reach the playoffs.
An end-to-end clash with Kingstonian finished with a Michael Klass own goal in stoppage time, while the closely-fought battle at Bognor Regis eventually went the way of the hosts thanks to a Dan Gifford goal 11 minutes from time.
And Russell admits the two results were tough to take.
“It was like a scene from a war film at the end (against Kingstonian). I was going round picking bodies up. It was a tough dressing room,” he says.
“So to pick them up, to have one day’s rest and then go out there on Monday was hard. I made five changes to try and jazz it up a little for Bognor and I thought we started the game well, got into some really good areas and controlled the game.
“But we got to the second half and just hit a wall. I think they did as well – the quality of the game in the second half was poor. And then we had our chance – JT set Taylor Maloney up in the middle of the goal but he puts it wide, and then they go the other end and score. Unfortunately we lose that game and our season is over in terms of our aspiration to go up.
“It was really disappointing because ultimately the club has been brilliant, and we can look back at the positives.
“It’s so good we’ve been doing that. The average gate has gone up front 350 to 850 and rising, getting over 1000 fans a game since Christmas! It’s been an unbelievable atmosphere.”
Thanks for the support
Indeed, the support the club has received for both the men’s and women’s teams this season has been hugely appreciated. And Russell says there’s more to come from his team next season.
“I just want to take this opportunity to speak on behalf of the players and staff, we’ve all come in new to the club this season and we’ve been blown away by how kind you guys have been to us,” he says.
“Throughout the season we’ve had some not so good days. I remember Potters Bar at home when we got beat 5-1 and you still stayed behind and clapped us.
“It’s unbelievable and we’re so fortunate to play in front of your guys. I appreciate all the support you’ve given me, the players and the staff over the season.
“It doesn’t go unnoticed and it’s been an absolute pleasure to manage this football club, and I’m just sorry that I couldn’t quite get us to where we need to be.
“But I’m going to be working through the summer to make sure we come back even strong and go even closer next season. So thank you again and I look forward to seeing you all!”
Lewes FC vs Bowers & Pitsea tickets
Lewes FC tickets for the game, which kicks off at 3pm on Saturday, are available to buy now online (at a discount).
Ticket prices online are as follows:
Adults – £11 general admittance online (£12 on the gate)
Concessions – £7 general admittance online (£8 on the gate)
Kids (under 16) – free!
Beach hut for six people – £99 SOLD OUT
Photos: James Boyes