The Rooks recorded their first win of the season with an impressive performance against a much-fancied Dorking Wanderers side, reports Stuart Fuller.
Rooks boss Darren Freeman changed his midfield from the side that drew at Tonbridge Angels on Tuesday night with James Hammond dropping to the bench in favour of Bouwe Bosma in what was an otherwise unchanged team.
The home side, playing only their second game at their new Meadowbank home, started off the brighter of the two sides, looking to use their wide men, Luke Moore and Matthew Briggs to get behind the Lewes full-backs. They had some early success but their delivery into the middle, looking for danger-man Jason Prior, were easily handled by Chappell and Freeman, who were beginning to look a formidable defensive pair, starting their third game together.
The Rooks game plan of pressing the Dorking Wanderers midfield was effective in the early stages although it did lead to most of the play taking place in the Lewes half. However, as the game progressed then so did the Rooks, with Jonte Smith holding the ball up under pressure time and time again, looking to get the ball wide out to Blewden and Conlon.
Omarr Lawson had the Rooks first chance on the fifteen minute mark, weaving in and out of the Dorking defence before shooting straight at Huk in the home team goal. A few minutes later a Redwood corner from the right was well met by Jonte Smith but his header was a foot wide.
On twenty-five minutes Lewes had a shout for a penalty when Ronnie Conlon went down under a heavy challenge, but the referee waived away the claims as he also did a few minutes later when Jonte was felled as he attempted to lift the ball over the advancing keeper. Neither were clear cut decisions and the referee was close enough to get a good view of both incidents.
In the 35th minute Stacey Freeman ghosted in at the far post and got his head on a Redwood deep ball to the far post with Huk only able to parry it away. The Rooks were on top of the game by this stage and so it was no surprise to the 100 or so Lewes fans when they took the lead in the 39th minute. Another deep cross to the far post found Jonte Smith and he expertly headed the ball back across to Luke Blewden who struck the ball under a Dorking challenge into the net.
The Rooks were good value for their first-half lead and could have doubled their lead early in the second half when Bouwe Bosma curled an effort from the edge of the box just over the bar. Two minutes later it was the turn of Smith to be holding his head as a fast-flowing move featuring Redwood, Lawson and Conlon saw the Bermudan in on goal, but his delicate chip just cleared the bar.
The game was a brilliant advert for Non-League football, with both teams intent on attacking. Dorking’s confidence grew but every effort they had on target found the safe hands of Lewis Carey. McShane surged forward on the hour mark and his shot struck a post with such ferocity that the rebound put the Rooks on the attack and Bouwe Bosma took the ball around the Dorking keeper and tried to slot into an empty net, but a Dorking defender manage to recover in time and clear.
The Rooks rode their luck a bit as the game wore on. A Richards free-kick on the edge of the Lewes box curled just over the bar, whilst a superb run from Briggs set up Luke Moore but his volley went narrowly wide. Carey was once again the saviour when he stopped well from Prior and then Moore once again. Lewes really needed a second and sure enough found one when Omarr Lawson ran onto a Redwood pass in the area, beat his man and powered the ball home with just over twenty minutes to play.
The two-goal advantage lasted less than 60 seconds as a cross from the right caused panic in the Lewes area and Jason Prior got a final touch to turn the ball over the line, despite a desperate attempt by Carey to claw the ball away.
There was no surprise that Dorking threw extra men up front, but it was Lewes who took control of the final few minutes, with Jonte Smith showing his international class with his hold-up play as well as some intelligent game management from the experienced Frankie Chappell.
Despite the presence in the Lewes area of Dorking keeper Huk for the final minute of the game, The Rooks held on and took all three points. Few of the Lewes fans will have seen a better victory on the road in recent years (Cray Wanderers last season perhaps) and every one to a man deserved the ovation they got from the travelling support.
Darren was understandably delighted not only with the win but also the way the team kept their shape and game plan when he spoke after the game to Barry Collins.
The Rooks attention now turn to the Emirates FA Cup and a trip to Molesey next Saturday in the Preliminary Round, kick off 3pm.
Pictures thanks to James Boyes.
Dorking Wanderers: Huk, Dyett (O’Sullivan – 45mins), El-Abd, Boulter, Beckles (McManus – 68mins), Moore, Richards, Briggs, Prior, Tolfrey (Lavery – 20mins), McShane
Subs not used: Beard, Gallagher
Lewes: Carey, Blewden (N Cotton – 73mins), Redwood, Conlon (Hammond – 61mins), Chappell, Freeman, Brinkhurst, Dome-Bemwin, Smith (Medlock – 90mins), Bosma, Lawson
Subs not used: Reed, Dukali