Tony Russell has called on his Lewes players to find that magic final touch and convert draws into wins as the Rooks head into Tuesday’s clash with Folkestone Invicta at the Dripping Pan seeking to go seven games unbeaten.
Russell has had the boys working on the basics for the past few weeks in an attempt to shore up the defence, and that has contributed to a six-game uneaten run that has helped lift the Rooks to mid-table.
Still with games in hand over those above them, Russell is relishing playing back under the lights at the Pan on Tuesday, with another bumper crowd expected to roar on the lads.
And the boss, who promised goals ahead of the 2-2 draw at Brightlingsea on Saturday, is hoping for more to come from his forward line this midweek.
“We’re six games unbeaten and I was talking to the lads at the end of the Brightlingsea game, asking them what they want from this season. We’re making progress and going places, but draws that should have been wins means you’re banging your head against the wall constantly,” says Russell.
“I’m sure our fans think the same – I’ve never known a team to go through a game of football and look so good, so classy, but then drop that level, all in the same half. It’s mind-blowing but we’re working to fix it. That’s our job – mine, the coaches, the players – it’s our job to turn these draws into wins. Because we’re shooting ourselves in the foot too often.
“If I didn’t think we could do what I ask of the players then I’d call it all off and tell them to go long. But we are good enough, we can play beautiful football, so much more than other teams in this league. We’re controlling games but not killing teams off.”
Reflecting on Brightlingsea draw
Lewes headed into the Brightlingsea clash having also drawn with Aveley last week. Goals aren’t hard to come by at the Pan right now but Russell wants to see consistency across the board.
“There was some excellent stuff, and some pretty average stuff as well,” Russell says, reflecting on the weekend. “We’re six games unbeaten and pretty much every game is the same. It doesn’t matter who we face – if we get on the ball and control it no-one can stop us playing our way.
“But we just shoot ourselves in the foot. We’ve worked in the week about joining groups up together. So when one wide player goes in, the other has to be there in the box to tap in, stuff like that. We’re playing some lovely one-touch football that just needs one last man to tap in, but we’re not quite there yet.
“At half time I said to the lads that we could have been winning by plenty, but then we just seemed to step off it. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“We’re such a good team, wonderful to work with and so much talent, but at times the lads are the most frustrating group I’ve ever managed! They’re so talented and I know they get it, and when it works no team can live with them. But when they drop off it, it falls fast. It was carnage on Saturday.
“It was the good, the bad and the ugly, honestly it’s mad.
“The good thing is we’re still unbeaten, we’re harder to play against, and we have the fans behind us on Tuesday. They’re going to be just as important as any player on the pitch, because Folkestone are in need of a win too.”
Focus on Folkestone
Indeed, Folkestone head into Tuesday’s 7:45pm kick off having lost their last three league games and sit 17th in the Isthmian Premier League.
The side come into this clash after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Haringey Borough. Folkestone manager Michael Everitt told the club’s website: “We’ll have almost a full squad, but Heardy [Scott Heard] will have to be assessed as he pulled his back on Saturday which was why he was taken off.
“But everyone else is available and although it’s a long trip we’ll ensure we’re set up right for the start, so we don’t hopefully concede another early goal and end up chasing the game, which we have been doing recently.”
‘Two teams going in head first’
Russell knows all too well about conceding early goals and reckons the supporters at the Dripping Pan on Tuesday night are in for a real treat.
“Folkestone are unique in that they’re in a strange position, just as we are. They’ve had huge investment this season and really gone for it, but it’s not worked for them yet,” says Russell. “I’ve struggled to work out sometimes why we haven’t won when I look at how good our team is, but then I look at that Folkestone team and it’s amazing they are where they are.
“They’ve probably got, player for player, the best side in the league. They’ve dipped their hands in their pockets deeply and they’ll come good before the end of the season.
“The team’s packed with talent. Ian Gayle at centre-half who I’ve seen playing for Dagenham & Redbridge, and Nathan Green is someone I’ve wanted to work with for a few years. Ira Jackson was at Grimsby this time last year, Ade Yusuff is one of the best strikers in the league, Kadell Daniel was Margate’s best player before he joined them. They’ve got an unbelievable side but keep getting beat.
“Folkestone are a very good side but I think they need to be poked to get up for certain games. And they’ll be well up for Tuesday.
“Coming to the Dripping Pan, under the lights with our big crowd, they know us well enough and we’ll get the best version of Folkestone. They’ve got players that can thrive on a stage like the Pan, when you come to Lewes this is the place where you show your football.
“We’ll get the best version of them, so we need to be the best version of ourselves. It should be a cracker because Folkestone’s formation is set up to come at you – they don’t know any other way.
“And we do the same. We come at teams and they usually just sit back. On Tuesday it’s going to be two teams going in head first and meeting in the middle. They’re dangerous but so are we.
“We’ve got to be at our best. We’re six unbeaten and the positive is that we’ve been brilliant across the pitch apart from the 18-yard box.
“Teams are trying to stop us playing it around but they can’t. We just need that extra bit and the goals will come thick and fast. We can beat anyone when it ticks.”
Lewes FC vs Folkestone Invicta tickets
The match on Tuesday kicks off at 7:45pm. You can buy Lewes FC tickets for the game online and skip the queue at the gate. Online ticket prices are as follows:
Adults – £12
Concessions – £8
Kids U16 – Free
Beach Huts – £110
Photo: James Boyes