Lewes boss Tony Russell has told his players they will soon get the reward for their hard work and that Saturday’s FA Trophy clash with Sevenoaks at the Dripping Pan can be the start of a surge in form.
The Rooks haven’t played for two weeks since an injury-hit side came within inches of taking a point from Billericay in the Isthmian Premier League.
Lewes sit 14th in the table but have four games in hand over leaders Bishop’s Stortford, while the playoff spots are just six points away.
Attention now turns to the FA Trophy and a clash with Isthmian South East side Sevenoaks.
And Russell is eager to get back to action in front of our fans at the Pan.
“The boys are ready,” Russell says. “Sevenoaks are very, very attack-minded. They want the ball. We want the ball. So this isn’t going to be a sat-back bore-fest.
“We’re going to go for each other here and it will be a very good game of football because of it. They’ve got boys who are as good as anything in our league and the league above.
“Saturday is two teams with serious firepower and I think it’s got the making of an excellent game – tactically, latest-ditch defending, end-to-end play. It’ll be a good one.”
Busy weeks ahead
Russell is also able to welcome two new players into the squad for Saturday, with Jamie Mascoll and Johnville Renee having signed during the break in fixtures.
Discussing the work put in since the Billericay loss, Russell says: “The last two weeks have been good. We came into this break with a few injuries – some we’ve got to the bottom of and some that are still ongoing.
“We just felt the squad needed a little big more updating, so this break gave us some more recruiting time. We did a really long session last weekend and another great session on Monday on Sevenoaks, which has given us time to acclimatise our two new players who will be in the squad.
“We’ve got a huge amount of games coming up so it’s important that we’ve bolstered the squad with good players.
“It’s busy – and that’s why we’ve had to bolster the squad. Ken is going to be out for a little while, maybe six to eight weeks.
“Pritchard and Razz we have to manage their workload. They can’t train at the moment, so we’ve just got to manage the amount of games they play and rejig it a little.
“We think with Brad that we’re on top of it – he’s got some exercises to do to strengthen the area of concern. With Razz he’s got an MRI scan next week. I don’t think it’s too serious as we had this last season, when he couldn’t do much training with the group, and was just playing games. But the sooner we take a look at the issue the sooner it’s resolved, so the MRI will help.”
Progress made at Billericay
The Rooks were inches away from grabbing a deserved draw at Billericay last time out – a game that saw Russell overhaul his defence due to injuries, and endure some frustrating decision making that chalked off two Lewes goals.
But the boss is confident that the unity shown between the players and the travelling fans in Essex can help set the grounding for an upturn in results this autumn.
“I thought we were outstanding. It wasn’t just the injuries going into the game, it was that on the morning Tom Carlse and Will Salmon pulled out ill,” says Russell.
“There was a bug in the camp, so we have our back-four out. Carlse, the centre-backs Tom Champion and Salmon, and Kenneth Yao at right-back out.
“And yet we controlled the game. The stats speak for themselves: 67% possession, 18 shots, and we got into their penalty area 21 times. Two goals disallowed that I knew at the time were ridiculous but looking back it’s even more.
“One was a foul on the goalkeeper when JT was two yards off him and heads the ball in. The other is offside – and we’ve got a screenshot of it and I reckon Razz is probably six yards onside.
“The manner in which we lost to Billericay was what was upsetting. It upset me, the players, the fans, everyone there. So when we had our team meeting we spoke about what are the values of Lewes FC, what do we want to be seen as?
“We spoke our that ethos, about the way we play as a footballing side, we don’t stop, we don’t give up. We represent ourselves with pride. And at the end of the game I told them how proud I was with them, because we dominated even though we had a man sent off.
“I know the supporters who went to that game were also proud of us, they told me! And I had Billericay fans coming up to me after the game telling me how well we played.
“If we’re going to put a shirt on and represent the club then we need to do it in the right way. And that’s one that plays good football, is highly skilled, and never gives up.
“And if you’re going to lose, do it with heart. I can handle that and our fans can, representing the club together with pride.”
Focus on Sevenoaks
Lewes face a Sevenoaks side that are also lagging behind their league rivals in terms of games played so far this season, as Harry Hudson’s side continue to progress in the FA Cup.
And Russell knows a thing or two about Saturday’s visitors from Kent.
“Sevenoaks are a very, very good side. Forget the league table. They’re like us in our league, where some teams have played 12 games and we’ve played seven. Sevenoaks have only played five in the league. They’re also still in the FA Cup and beat a National League side away in the last round,” says the boss.
“I know their manager Harry really well, I know the coaching staff too. I recommended their assistant Mark Dacey to Harry, after working with Mark at Cray as my U23s manager. He’s a really good coach and on top of that last year when Harry got the job we sent them three players – Matthew Weaire, Freddie Parker and Reece Gillies. They got nine out of 10 wins at the end of last season, they’re good.
“I think Sevenoaks will go up. They should win that league, get promoted and keep their excellent side. They’ve got players from the National League, who can compete at two levels above their current division.
“So this is going to be a very good game and we’re going to have to play well.”
Lewes vs Sevenoaks tickets
The match on Saturday kicks off at 3pm. 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
Please note – season tickets are not valid for this fixture.
Photo: James Boyes