Lewes were forced to settle for a point against local rivals Horsham at the Pan, as a late equaliser from Lee Harding saw the visitors leave with a 1-1 draw, reports Tom Harper (pictures James Boyes).
Tony Russell once again named the same side as the Rooks looked to make it four consecutive wins, and was also able to include Razz Coleman De-Graft on the bench for the first time since the 2nd January as he continued his comeback from injury.
Lewes started the game brightly and came close to taking an early lead through Jamie Mascoll, whose cross-shot from the right was clawed away by former Rooks goalkeeper Taylor Seymour.
The play-off places were firmly in sight for both sides heading into the game and this lead to an open, entertaining encounter for much of the remainder of the half.
The better chances would fall to the visitors, who thought they had taken the lead when Lucas Rodrigues deflected a Doug Tuck half-volley last Lewis Carey, only for the linesman’s flag to cut short the celebrations with Rodrigues deemed to have been offside.
Rodrigues was at the heart of Horsham’s next opportunity, leading an incisive counter-attack that ended with Jack Mazzone steering Bobby Price’s cross from the right against the bar in front of an almost open goal.
The visitors were well on top at this stage, with the dangerous Rodrigues then seeing an effort from the edge of the area deflected just wide of the far post.
Despite finding chances hard to come by, Lewes very nearly took the lead themselves just before the half-hour mark, as Joe Taylor’s glancing header from a Mascoll free-kick drew a smart save from Seymour.
Horsham nearly made the most of this immediately, as Rodrigues forced a corner towards goal and the Lewes defence were only just able to scramble the ball off the line with players queueing up to apply the finishing touch.
Rodrigues was proving a constant threat for the visitors and went close twice in quick succession, seeing a goal-bound strike blocked before his effort on the rebound was superbly saved by Lewis Carey, with Lee Harding then only able to fire the loose ball into the side-netting from a tight angle.
It was therefore slightly against the run of play when Lewes took the lead three minutes before half-time, as Tyrique Hyde picked up the ball in midfield and played a superb slide-rule pass in behind the Horsham defence for Taylor to run onto before chipping it over the onrushing Seymour and into the back of the net.
The early stages of the second half saw Lewes enjoy arguably their most dominant spell of the game, a Taylor cross from the right picking out Deon Moore at the far post, who was denied by Seymour and then dragged a second attempt wide after the visitors had been unable to clear their lines.
The Rooks were dominating possession but finding it difficult to create clear-cut chances against a well-organised Horsham side, who seemed happy to slow the game down at times, knowing they had the attacking quality to cause problems themselves.
They soon came close to an equaliser, as Mazzone dispossessed Will Salmon before playing Daniel Ajakaiye through on goal, with his powerful attempt being saved by Carey, before Mazzone saw his strike on the rebound blocked by the recovering Salmon.
Ajakaiye should arguably have levelled the scores minutes later, but could only place his shot over the bar after a scuffed clearance from Tom Champion fell to him in space in the area.
Lewes felt they were denied a good chance to double their lead midway through the second half, as Taylor went down in the area under a strong challenge that didn’t appear to win the ball, only for the referee to book Taylor for simulation rather than point to the spot.
Horsham continued to push heading into the final 15 minutes, with Jack Strange heading a presentable chance at the far post over the bar.
They weren’t to be denied for much longer though, as good play down the left ended with Rodrigues crossing for Harding to finish at the far post and deservedly level the scores with ten minutes remaining.
There were no chances of note for either side in the closing stages, leaving both to settle for a point on a freezing cold night at the Pan.
You can read the progcast here.
Highlights thanks to Your Instant Replay can be watched here.
More of Boysie’s photos from the night can be enjoyed here.
Lewes travel to Aveley on Saturday, kick-off at 3pm.
Lewes: Carey, Renee, Mascoll, Salmon Champion, Young (Oluloga 46), Pritchard, Hyde, Moore, Gondoh (Murrell-Williamson 78), Taylor.
Unused Subs: Tamplin, Hall, De-Graft.
Horsham: Seymour, Price, Sparks, Tuck, Strange, Brivio, Rodrigues (Malins 87), Hester-Cook (Dsane 66), Mazzone (Daniel 74), Ajakaiye, Harding.
Unused Subs: Kavanagh, Fenelon.