Lewes surrendered a two-goal lead to draw 3-3 at Herne Bay, a result that could prove costly in their push for the play-offs, reports Tom Harper.
Tony Russell made one change to the side that drew 2-2 at Margate in their previous game, with Jayden Davis returning from injury and replacing Bradley Pritchard in the starting line-up.
Lewes started brightly, knowing that a win would move them to within a point of the play-off places with both Enfield Town and Cray Wanderers immediately above them playing tomorrow, and saw Razz Coleman De-Graft hit the bar with a long-range strike inside the first minute.
They were then denied an early lead by the linesman, who flagged Joe Taylor offside as he converted a Tyrique Hyde cross from close range.
After weathering an early storm, the visitors took the lead with the first attack on 15 minutes, Marcel Barrington running onto a long ball forward, taking it past Will Salmon and finding the bottom corner.
The Rooks continued to see plenty of the ball, but struggled to break down the Herne Bay defence now they had something to hold onto.
De-Graft was at the heart of all Lewes’ best moments, shooting just wide from the edge of the area after being teed up by Taylor.
The Rooks levelled the scores five minutes before the break, as incisive build-up play down the right ended with Taylor sending a thumping finish past Jordan Perrin and in off the underside of the bar.
Lewes stayed on the front foot and took the lead a minute later, Perrin making a smart save to deny Davis, only for the Rooks to keep on the attack and see Tyrique Hyde play Ayo Olukoga through on goal to poke the ball under Perrin and spark jubilant celebrations behind the goal.
The Rooks started the second half as strongly as they had finished the first, Perrin pushing a long-range Davis strike round the post, before making a superb save to deny De-Graft at the far post after Tom Champion had flicked a corner on.
Lewes finally scored the third goal their pressure had been threatening, a deep De-Graft corner from the left being headed past Perrin and just inside the far post by Salmon.
The Rooks remained on top as they looked for a fourth goal to seal the win, with Ryan Gondoh cutting in from the right but seeing his effort deflected just over the bar with Perrin beaten.
Herne Bay gave themselves a lifeline with 15 minutes remaining, a mis-hit Troy Williams cross from the right deceiving Lewis Carey and dropping just inside the far post to halve the deficit.
The visitors then shocked the majority of the impressive crowd of 1,108 by levelling the scores on 80 minutes, as David Ozobia forced a fine save from Carey and the loose ball fell to Mason Henry-Saunders to finish into the empty net.
Lewes saw plenty of the ball in the closing stages as they searched for a winner, with Pritchard seeing a deflected effort saved by Perrin’s legs in the final few minutes.
This was the closest the Rooks came to winning the game late on, leaving them to reflect on a disappointing draw that could prove costly in their push for a play-off place.
You can watch the highlights of the game, thanks to Your Instant Replay here.
You can read today’s Progcast here.
Lewes travel to Bognor Regis Town on Easter Monday, kick-off at 3pm.
Lewes: Carey, Olukoga, Champion, Salmon (Huckle 67), Mundle-Smith, Young, Hyde (Pritchard 69), Davis, Gondoh (Moore 79), De-Graft, Taylor.
Unused Subs: Hall, Murrell-Williamson.
Herne Bay: Perrin, Williams, Parter, Johnson, Antonio, Saunders-Henry, Barrington, Ogunleye (Sammoutis 76), Dymond, O’Mara, Ozobia.
Unused Subs: Saunders, Mason, Isaacs, Ajemen.
Booked: Antonio, Dymond.