Lewes started 2023 by returning to winning ways, with a dominant performance helping the Rooks to a convincing 3-1 derby win over Bognor at the Pan, reports Tom Harper (picture James Boyes).
Tony Russell made one change to the side that lost 2-1 at Hastings United in their previous game, with Bradley Pritchard replacing Johnville Renee in the starting line-up, which saw Ayo Olukoga slot in at right-back.
Lewes made a bright start and were ahead after just six minutes, Joe Taylor converting a penalty awarded after Ryan Gondoh had been tripped by Joe Rabbetts in the area.
The Rooks were moving the ball well, passing quickly and always looking to stretch the visitor’s defence.
Bognor looked lively going forward themselves though, Sam De St Croix shooting just wide after the ball dropped to him on the edge of the area.
Lewes scored the second goal their pressure had been threatening on 24 minutes, Gondoh calmly guiding a finish between two covering defenders after Taylor had seen an initial effort saved by Killian Cahill.
The visitors continued to pose a threat as they looked for a route back into the game, with Nathan Odokonyero seeing a goal-bound header blocked by Tom Champion after an incisive passing move down the right.
Odokonyero went close again with the final action of the first half, but could only drag his effort wide with just Lewis Carey to beat.
Lewes were on the front foot from the opening stages of the second half and nearly saw Taylor add to their lead early on, as he latched onto a Tyrique Hyde through-ball before drawing a smart save from Cahill.
The Rooks were soon enjoying arguably their best spell of the game and Razz Coleman De-Graft was unsurprisingly involved in all their best moments, going on a purposeful run and evading several challenges before seeing a powerful strike from the edge of the area deflected onto the crossbar.
De-Graft came even closer minutes later, making space for himself at the end of an exceptional passing move after being teed up by Gondoh and getting his shot away, only for the covering Josh McCormick to deflect it onto the post with Cahill beaten.
Bognor made the most of these let-offs by pulling a goal back in spectacular fashion on 67 minutes through Odokonyero, who cut in from the right before unleashing an unstoppable strike past Carey and into the top corner.
Lewes could have been forgiven for stepping back at this stage and trying to protect their lead, but to their credit, they continued to search for more goals and could easily have regained their two-goal lead when Taylor just missed the target from close range after a De-Graft cut-back.
The Rooks managed the majority of the remainder of the game comfortably, keeping the ball in the Bognor half and ensuring that Carey and their defence remained relatively untroubled.
They scored a third goal to secure the win deep into stoppage time, substitute Deon Moore running in behind and squaring for Taylor to finish into the almost-empty net, before celebrating with the jubilant fans behind the goal.
Today’s Progcast can be read here.
Highlights of the game thanks to Your Instant Replay can be viewed here.
Lewes will hope to build on this result when they visit Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday, kick-off at 3pm.
Lewes: Carey, Olukoga, Champion, Salmon, Mascoll, Young, Pritchard, Hyde, Gondoh (Moore 72), De-Graft (Addy 85), Taylor.
Unused Subs: Hall, McGonigle, Middleton-Tozer.
Booked: Hyde, Taylor.
Bognor Regis Town: Cahill, McCormick, Rabbetts, McLeod, Black, Robson (Briffa 46), De St Croix (Paterson 76), Olaniyan, Odokonyero, Gifford, Berchiche (Lethbridge 60).
Unused Subs: Howick, Walsh.