Lewes staged an impressive second-half comeback to recover from two goals down and pick up a deserved point against Hornchurch at the Pan, reports Tom Harper (pictures James Boyes).
Tony Russell made two changes to the side that beat Margate in their previous game, with Marcel Elva-Fountaine and Tyrique Hyde replacing Johnville Renee and Ronan Silva in the starting line-up.
The visitors started brightly and saw Liam Nash go close twice early on, heading straight at Lewis Carey after getting on the end of a Mickey Parcell cross, before slicing a Sam Higgins centre over the bar from close range.
Lewes were competing well though, and soon began to turn spells of possession into more clear-cut opportunities, Deon Moore shooting straight at Joe Wright in the Hornchurch goal at the end of a purposeful run.
It was Carey’s turn to be called into action minutes later, getting down well to turn a powerful Higgins free-kick round the post.
Hornchurch took the resulting corner quickly and were awarded a penalty when Kenny Clark was bundled over in the box as the Rooks attempted to clear their lines.
Higgins took the spot-kick, drilling it emphatically into the bottom corner to give the visitors the lead nine minutes before half-time.
The dangerous striker could have doubled his tally almost immediately, with Carey having to be alert to help an audacious effort from almost on the touchline down the left behind for a corner.
Lewes finished the half strongly and came close to equalising just before the break, as an incisive passing move involving Tyrique Hyde and Razz Coleman De-Graft ended with the former seeing a powerful cross-shot from the right deflected just over the bar with Joe Taylor waiting at the far post for a tap-in.
The Rooks took this attacking threat into the early stages of the second half, substitute Rhys Murrell-Williamson being denied by Wright at his near post after cutting in from the right.
Hornchurch made the most of this let-off by doubling their lead on 50 minutes through Ola Ogunwamide, who ran through and finished across Carey and into the bottom corner after the visitors had won the ball high up the pitch.
At this stage, playing against such an experienced and streetwise team, Lewes could have been forgiven for thinking it was a long way back if they wanted to take something from the game.
There is plenty of character in this Lewes side though and with the backing of the Philcox Stand in full voice, the Rooks started playing arguably their best football of the game.
They could have pulled a goal back almost immediately, Wright making a superb save to keep out Will Salmon’s powerful header from a Jamie Mascoll corner.
The Rooks reduced the deficit on 65 minutes, as Hyde picked out De-Graft, who made space for himself in the area before firing a powerful effort past Wright and into the roof of the net.
This goal unsurprisingly galvanised Lewes, who spent large periods of the remainder of the game camped in the visitor’s half and enjoying plenty of possession in dangerous areas without really testing Wright.
The Rooks continued to push for an equaliser and were rewarded for their efforts with a minute remaining, as the ball dropped to Taylor in the area at the end of a spell of pressure, and he sent a superb low finish across Wright and into the bottom corner to send the home supporters into raptures.
There was still time for the visitors to nearly snatch a winner deep into stoppage-time, as they won the ball deep inside the Lewes half and worked it to Ogunwamide on the right, who cut inside and saw his strike from the edge of the box clip the outside of the post with Carey beaten.
Lewes held on to pick up a point that was deserved on the balance of play, but had seemed unlikely after an hour.
You can read the progcast from the game here.
You can watch the highlights here, thanks to Your Instant Replay.
The Rooks take a break from league action with a trip to Chesham United in the FA Trophy first round on Saturday, kick-off at 3pm.
Lewes: Carey, Elva-Fountaine (Renee 51), Champion, Salmon, Mascoll, Young, Pritchard, Hyde (Silva 66), De-Graft, Moore (Murrell-Williamson 31), Taylor.
Unused Subs: Nelson, Olukoga.
Booked: Elva-Fountaine, Champion, Salmon.
Hornchurch: Wright, Parcell, Sutton, Christou, Clark, Reid, Munns, Spence, Higgins (Joseph 76), Nash, Ogunwamide.
Unused Subs: Smith, Muldoon.
Booked: Parcell, Munns, Higgins, Ogunwamide.