A depleted Lewes side produced an impressive display but were unable to return to winning ways, falling to a narrow 2-1 defeat at Billericay Town, reports Tom Harper.
With both Will Salmon and Tom Carlse sidelined through illness, Tony Russell was forced into a number of changes to the side, but was also able to hand a start to Michael Klass following his return from Aldershot Town on a one-month loan.
There was little action early on until the hosts took the lead on 11 minutes, a swift passing move ending with John Ufuah making space on the right-hand side of the penalty area before firing across Lewis Carey and into the bottom corner.
Billericay looked a threat every time they got into the final third, with Chris Dickson teeing up Alfie Cerulli, who saw his goal-bound effort blocked as they looked to double their lead.
Lewes came into the game more as the half progressed, moving the ball quickly in midfield and beginning to stretch the Billericay defence.
Michael Klass came close to equalising for the Rooks, seeing his powerful strike from the edge of the area pushed round the post by Harry Seaden.
Despite this, Cerulli came close to making it 2-0 minutes later, seeing his acrobatic volley from a Henry Burnett cross drop just wide.
Lewes ended the half strongly, Ayo Olukoga just missing the target with a long-range strike, before Rhys Murrell-Williamson cut inside from the right and saw his powerful shot blocked by Marvin Ekpiteta.
The Rooks continued to enjoy plenty of possession during the early stages of the second half, but were grateful to Carey for keeping them only one goal behind as he reacted well to keep out a close-range attempt from Dickson.
There was nothing Carey could do to prevent Dickson doubling the host’s lead on 52 minutes though, as the powerful striker ran onto a long ball down the right and unleashed an unstoppable half-volley that flew past Carey and into the roof of the net.
Lewes were handed a route back into the game just six minutes later, as Michael Chambers was adjudged to have fouled Joe Taylor in the penalty area.
Taylor took the penalty himself and sent Seaden the wrong way from the spot to bring the Rooks back into the game.
The Rooks thought they had levelled the scores within minutes when Taylor headed a Bradley Pritchard corner past Seaden from inside the six-yard box, only for the referee to disallow it for a foul in the crowded penalty area.
Lewes had another equaliser ruled out by the officials soon after, as Razz Coleman De-Graft saw his cross from the left deflected past Seaden by the covering Ekpiteta, only to be ruled offside by the linesman after the ball had hit the back of the net.
The Rooks remained on the front foot, with Taylor being played in behind by Pritchard but just being unable to squeeze the ball past the onrushing Seaden.
The hosts were handed a great chance to make the most of these let-offs heading into the final 20 minutes after being awarded a penalty following a foul by Alfie Young.
Dickson took the penalty and blazed it high over the bar, giving the Rooks the lifeline their second-half performance had arguably deserved.
Lewes were dealt a blow within a minute of the penalty miss though, as the returning Klass was shown a second yellow card and sent off for a high challenge on Eze Ebuzoeme.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Lewes continued to dominate possession and pushed for a deserved equaliser.
Billericay were sitting deep and looking to restrict Lewes to long-range attempts, with one of these from substitute Ronan Silva at the start of four minutes of injury time being comfortably saved by Seaden.
The Rooks had one final chance to equalise with the final meaningful action of the game, but saw a superb cross from the left by Silva somehow evade both Jack Skinner and Murrell-Williamson, leaving Lewes to reflect on an impressive display that didn’t bring them the result it warranted.
Despite this, the Rooks were deservedly applauded off the pitch by the impressive contingent of travelling fans.
Lewes are next in action on the 8th October in the FA Trophy, with their opponents to be confirmed in Monday’s draw.
Billericay Town: Seaden, Wind, T. Stevenson, Agyemang (Burnett 31), Ekpiteta, Chambers, B. Stevenson, Ebuzoeme, Cerulli, Ufuah, Dickson (Jeffrey 82).
Unused Subs: Bancroft, Sullivan, Wilson.
Booked: Ebuzoeme, Seaden
Lewes: Carey, Elva-Fountaine, Nelson, Olukoga, De-Graft, Klass, Taylor, Murrell-Williamson, Moore (Silva 58), Young, Pritchard (Skinner 78).
Unused Subs: Jenkins, Middleton-Tozer.
Booked: Elva-Fountaine, Klass, Silva
Sent off: Klass.
Attendance: 869 (approx 50 Rooks fans)