Lewes FC manager Tony Russell says his players will take plenty of lessons into Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Three Bridges following two differing results for the team over the past week.
The Rooks were unable to back up the 8-0 victory over Sheppey United when they faced Horsham on Tuesday, losing 2-0 to the fellow Isthmian Premier League side.
The two midweek games fell either side of football’s weekend hiatus in respect to the late Queen Elizabeth II.
Russell had the players back in training on Wednesday, where they geared up for Saturday’s FA Cup second qualifying round clash with Three Bridges at the Dripping Pan.
And the boss was pleased with how his troops responded to the Horsham loss.
“We had a good chat at training and spoke about a week in football,” says Russell. “It’s been an interesting week. We played on Tuesday and Tuesday.
“The first game we win 8-0 and we’re flying. And then we lose our first league game of the season in mid-September the following Tuesday.
“But that’s a week in football. What I’ve learned is you can’t get too high when you win, and you can’t get too high when you lose. We spoke about that.”
Decisions to make
Looking ahead to Three Bridges, Russell admits that he’s less likely to dramatically change his team selection around – due in part to the loss on Tuesday.
“We’re playing a lot of games, we’ve got Aveley next Tuesday too,” says Russell. “Marcel [Elva-Fountaine] is cup-tied so that’s an enforced change.
“But I don’t see wholesale changes. To be honest if we’d have won against Horsham I would have made more changes for Saturday, but I still feel looking at that game we’re still a little bit undercooked, still working on stuff and playing around with the combinations.
“What I’ll probably do is try a different combination in midfield, we’ve worked on a few bits where we think might help players. But realistically it won’t be a big overhaul from the side that lost to Horsham.
“I deliberately don’t want to make those big changes because it screams panic. It’s better to stay consistent, after all we’ve only lost one game this season.”
Lewes sit seventh in the Isthmian Premier League despite having lost just one game so far this season.
On the small things that could make a difference to his side, Russell says: “I think it might be a personnel thing. We’re lacking that one guy who has that creative mind.
“We’re actively looking and are in for one, it might take a few weeks to get done because we’re monitoring the situation. We understand that and we had a really good session on Wednesday. We feel confident coming into the game.”
Focus on Three Bridges
Three Bridges sit 10th in the Isthmian South East division, having won their opening two home games and lost two away fixtures.
And they’re in good form in the cups. Jamie Crellin’s men beat Erith Town 2-1 to reach this stage of the FA Cup, while they’re into the second qualifying round of the FA Trophy thanks to a 3-2 victory over Hullbridge.
Reflecting on Three Bridges, Russell says: “We’ve watched the video on them and had the match reports on them. They’re cup specialists.
“A good, enthusiastic team and I know the boy up front Noel Leighton from Margate. They’re a good side and they have no pressure. They can come here and have a free hit at it.
“I was impressed by a good few of their young players on our video footage. Watching how they play, they’re decent. But so are we and we’ve got to concentrate on ourselves. We’re planning for this, have done our work and if we play well I think we’ll win, regardless of what they do. But if we’re slightly off it on Saturday they can beat us.
“They’ve got good threats – quality out wide, a centre-forward who is experienced and energy in midfield. If we don’t play well it’s a potential banana skin but if we do play well they’ll find it hard to contain us.
“We won’t really know the reaction from Tuesday until we get it out there. Training was really good, everyone left in high spirits and we did some great work on the training pitch. We’re as prepared as we can be, so I’m confident.”
Players and fans play thrive off each other
The club is expecting another bumper crowd for the FA Cup fixture this weekend, which kicks off at 3pm on Saturday.
And Russell knows the power of the Rooks support at the Pan can push his team to achieve their goals this season.
“I love our fans and I will always tell them how good they are,” says Russell. “There was a game last year in mid-December when we lost 5-1 at home to Potters Bar. We had a man sent off and it was a horrible, miserable, wet night.
“But they stayed behind and clapped us. And I’ll never forget that. You find out about people not when you’re flying, but when you’re not doing well. And the fans were, and have always been, amazing.
“The players talk about our fans and the atmosphere a lot, especially when we’re kicking towards our home end in the second half. There’s no better feeling when the roar goes up.
“But we can’t just turn up with an expectation to win – neither us nor the fans. I’ve seen it before where fans turn up expecting to win and are almost waiting for something to happen before they get going. And the players have turned up and have waited for the fans to get going before we do.
“We need our supporters to be vocal from the get-go, and as a team we need to be on it straightaway.
“The boys talk about how loud it is when we get a corner or a shot away. We’re very lucky to have such wonderful fans. As I said with the Potters’ Bar game, I will never forget that. I’ve never seen anything like it. I couldn’t believe it.
“I was expected to get booed and jeered, and they stood there clapping. It was a horrible, cold, wet day and they were there for us. If ever there’s a group of people who deserve success it’s our supporters – and I’m determined to give them it.”
Lewes vs Three Bridges tickets
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