Written by: Stuart
Lewes recovered from two goals down to earn a replay with a 2-2 draw at Sheppey United in the FA Cup first qualifying round, reports Tom Harper, pictures by James Boyes and Danny Last.
Tony Russell handed a first start of the season to both Bradley Pritchard and Joe Taylor, with Tom Champion also returning to the side after missing the Bank Holiday Monday draw with Hastings United.
Lewes could have taken the lead inside the first minute, as Taylor capitalised on hesitant defending before shooting wide with only Aiden Prall in the Sheppey goal to beat.
The Rooks were enjoying plenty of possession and thought they had gone in front when Deon Moore finished from close range, only for the linesman to flag him offside.
Sheppey always posed a threat going forward themselves though, and saw Warren Mfula drag an effort wide of the far post after latching onto a ball in behind the Lewes defence.
Mfula went close again minutes later, running onto a long ball forward from Daniel Birch and making space for himself on the edge of the area before shooting over the bar.
The hosts took the lead after 39 minutes through the dangerous Mfula, who ran onto a ball in behind before finishing past Lewis Carey and into the bottom corner.
Sheppey started the second half brightly and doubled their lead nine minutes after the restart, Mfula finding space in the area before finding the corner with a powerful finish.
Lewes responded well and halved the deficit within a minute, as good build-up play ended with Taylor converting a Moore cross from the left at the far post.
The Rooks levelled the scores on 58 minutes through De-Graft, who steered a bouncing ball in the area into the bottom corner to send the travelling fans into raptures and set up a barnstorming last half an hour.
Lewes were on top at this stage, and saw De-Graft force a fine save from Prall after latching onto a flick-on from Taylor.
Prall then had to be alert to save bravely at the feet of Taylor after Mitchell Nelson had headed a Bradley Pritchard corner down towards goal.
It was one-way traffic heading into the final ten minutes, Prall making another impressive save to help a curling effort from Jack Skinner over the bar, with Skinner going even closer soon after and hitting the outside of the post after intercepting a loose pass in midfield.
The hosts were reduced to ten men at the start of injury-time, as Birch was shown a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Moore, but there wasn’t enough time remaining for Lewes to make the most of their numerical advantage, meaning both sides had to be content with a replay.
Lewes will welcome Sheppey United to the Pan for the replay on Tuesday, kick-off at 7.45pm – Tickets on sale now
Sheppey United: Prall, Birch, Parsons (Hudson 78), Majoyegbe, Sains, Hamill, Leonard (Hagan 64), Gillies, Grant, Mfula, Midson (Lambert 86).
Unused Subs: Tenyue, Roberts, Beard.
Booked: Prall, Birch, Gillies.
Sent off: Birch.
Lewes: Carey, Carlse, Champion (Yao 46), Nelson, Olukoga, Pritchard (Phipp 90), Silva (Skinner 46), De-Graft, Moore, Taylor, Salmon.
Unused Subs: Jenkins, Dalling, Tozer-Middleton.
Referee: Daniel D’Urso
Attendance: 267 (approx 40 Rooks fans)