A professional performance and second-half goals from Jonte Smith and Marcus Elliott helped Lewes to a comfortable victory over East Grinstead Town at the Pan, reports Tom Harper.
Darren Freeman named an unchanged side from the 4-2 win over Horsham that secured promotion three days earlier and was also able to include Jamie Brotherton on the bench on his return from injury.
Lewes started the game on the front foot and could have gone ahead inside the first few minutes, with Harry Reed drawing a smart save from Dan Smith in the visitor’s goal at the end of an excellent passing move.
The visitors looked comfortable on the ball and always seemed capable of causing the Rooks problems, as Alex Gaggin forced Chris Winterton into a good save low down to his right with a half-volley from the edge of the area.
Lewes were finding it difficult to play with the same energy that had seen them pick up impressive victories in each of their last two games, but still saw Jonte Smith test Dan Smith with a powerful effort from just outside the box as they looked to take the lead.
East Grinstead were more than matching the Rooks though, with Will Hoare forcing Winterton into another smart save from a tight angle after a half-cleared corner was returned into the danger area by Gaggin.
The Rooks had the final chance of the half, as a powerful free-kick from substitute Billy Medlock came back off the post with Smith beaten.
After struggling to create opportunities throughout the first half, it only took Lewes two minutes to take the lead after the restart.
There was an element of luck about the goal, as a cross from the left by Omarr Lawson was missed by Dan Smith and hit Jonte Smith before ricocheting off the far post, back onto Smith and into the net. The visitors believed the ball struck Smith’s arm before crossing the line, but referee Tristan Greaves allowed the goal to stand, giving the Rooks a 1-0 lead.
This goal galvanised Lewes, with Medlock seeing a deflected effort well saved by Smith before hitting the inside of the far post with a mis-hit cross from the left minutes later.
Medlock was enjoying an impressive game playing just in behind Smith, and drew another smart save from the visiting goalkeeper with a powerful close-range strike after being teed up by Gus Sow.
Lewes scored the second goal to secure all three points after 75 minutes, as substitute Marcus Elliott sent a powerful header from a Lawson cross past Smith a minute after coming on.
The Rooks controlled the closing stages of the game, with Medlock and Steve Brinkhurst forcing Smith into fine saves, but were unable to add to their lead.
This was a good result for Lewes, who remained patient and got their rewards in the second half. The Rooks remain two points clear at the top of the table but after another injury-time winner for Carshalton Athletic, could drop to second by the time they are next in action.
Darren explained his motivating team talk he gave at Half-Time when he spoke post-match to Barry Collins.
Next up for Lewes is a trip to Faversham Town for their penultimate league game of the season on Saturday, kick-off at 3pm.
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, Redwood, Lawson, Chappell, Cotton, Bosma (Hammond 46), Sow, J. Smith (Elliott 74), Conlon (Medlock 32), Reed.
Unused Subs: George, Brotherton.
East Grinstead Town: D. Smith, Boulding, Miller-Neave, Wilson, Thompson, Rolph, Hoare, Mazzone (Ferguson 89), Postance (Giraud-Hutchinson 71), Gaggin, Everett (Bombelenga 72).
Unused Subs: Springett, Sargent.
Booked: Boulding, Miller-Neave, Hoare.
Referee: Adrian Harris