Ten-man Lewes fell to a 3-1 defeat to Worthing at the Pan in the first Sussex derby of the season, in an action-packed game that saw the Rooks use three goalkeepers and have a numerical disadvantage for 77 minutes, reports Tom Harper.
Hugo Langton made two changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Brightlingsea in their previous game, with James Beresford and Tom Bolarinwa replacing Fintan Walsh and Ronnie Conlon in the starting line-up.
Worthing started the game brightly as they looked to make it three consecutive league wins at the start of this season, and saw Jasper Pattenden narrowly miss the target with a curling effort from the edge of the area early on.
The visitors continued to make most of the running in the opening exchanges and nearly took the lead through former Rook Dayshonne Golding, who saw his close-range strike headed off the line by Kiran Khinda-John after Reece Myles-Meekums had managed to break clear of the Lewes defence.
A difficult task for the Rooks became even tougher on 13 minutes as Nathan Stroomberg was shown a harsh straight red card for handling the ball outside his area after his attempted clearance hit Golding and appeared to bounce up onto his arm.
Centre forward Gary Noel donned the gloves to replace Stroomberg in goal, and was called into action immediately to hold onto a powerful Pattenden free-kick.
The visitors were enjoying plenty of the ball at this point but were unable to test Noel for a good 15 minutes until they finally took the lead on the half-hour mark, as a swift counter-attack was emphatically finished into the top corner from close range by Golding.
It would have been easy for Lewes’ heads to drop at this stage, but they continued to work hard and were rewarded with an equaliser just five minutes later.
The goal owed a lot to the persistence of Jude Arthurs, who pressed high up the pitch before charging down a clearance from Rocco Rees into the back of the Worthing net.
The Rooks got through to half-time relatively comfortably, but were dealt another blow at the break as Noel was forced off injured and was replaced between the posts by another makeshift goalkeeper in young defender Nic D’Arienzo.
Worthing regained their lead just six minutes into the second-half, as good play down the left by Myles-Meekums ended with his cross being turned into his own net by Leon Redwood.
The visitors threatened to run away with the game during the early stages of the second half, but Lewes fought back against wave after wave of Worthing attacks, and on the occasion their defence was breached, D’Arienzo was on hand to make a superb save to deny Thomas Chalaye at point-blank range.
Worthing eventually doubled their lead on 69 minutes, Golding finishing from close range after being teed up by Ollie Pearce following another D’Arienzo save to deny Joel Colbran.
Despite having been at a numerical disadvantage since the 13th minute, Lewes continued to try and press high up the pitch wherever possible and were nearly rewarded heading into the final few minutes, as Aaron Cosgrave latched onto a misplaced pass but took a heavy touch when clean through, allowing Rees to save bravely at his feet.
Worthing had opportunities to add to their lead late on but the Rooks avoided conceding any further goals thanks to more brave defending, and another smart save from D’Arienzo to keep out a long-range Ricky Aguiar effort.
Lewes can take heart from an encouraging display in difficult circumstances against one of the best sides in the league, and will hope to get some points on the board in the coming games if they can replicate the fight and character shown.
After the game boss Hugo Langton spoke to Stuart Fuller about the game and the performance of the team after they went down to ten men.
More photos from the game from James Boyes can be found here.
You can read the Progcast from the game here.
Match highlights thanks to Your Instant Replay can be watched here.
Next up for the Rooks is a trip to Wingate & Finchley on Saturday, kick-off at 3pm.
Lewes: Stroomberg, Beresford, Redwood, James-Lewis, Khinda-John (Conlon 70), Frimpong, Santos, Arthurs, Cosgrave, Blewden (Noel 15) (D’Arienzo 46), Bolarinwa.
Unused Subs: Walsh, Barclay.
Booked: Arthurs, Santos
Sent off: Stroomberg.
Worthing: Rees, Colbran, Moore (Chalaye 55), Barker, Armstrong, Racine, Pattenden (Gwengue 75), Golding, Pearce, Starkey (Aguiar 36), Myles-Meekums.
Unused Subs: Tutt, Keefe.
Referee: John Pike