A first-half goal from Chris Whelpdale saw Lewes start the season with an impressive 1-0 win over Cray Wanderers at the Pan, their first opening day victory since 2017, reports Tom Harper.
Tony Russell handed debuts to a number of new signings, with only Ryan Gondoh left in the starting XI from last season.
The new arrivals included goalkeeper Nathan Harvey, who joined the Rooks this week off the back off an impressive loan spell at Chatham Town last season following his release from Charlton Athletic earlier this summer.
Lewes started well, moving the ball quickly and looking to stretch the Cray defence at every opportunity.
Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala was involved in all their best chances during an impressive first-half display and had the first half-chance of the game, as he saw a strike from the edge of the area deflected just wide.
The visitors were adopting a more direct style of play and came close to taking the lead with their first attempt on goal, as Mason Saunders-Henry outmuscled Ronnie Vint to get on the end of a long ball forward before seeing his powerful strike hit the crossbar with Harvey beaten.
Lewes took the lead on the half-hour mark, a Kieran Murtagh through-ball picked out Tommy Wood, and he lifted the ball over the onrushing Shaun Rowley for Chris Whelpdale to volley home from inside the six-yard box.
Cray looked for an immediate response and came close to finding it through Yahaya Bamba, who cut inside from the right before sending a powerful strike into the side-netting.
The Rooks continued to pose a threat themselves though, with the dangerous Lumbombo-Kalala drawing a smart save from Rowley in the final meaningful action of the first half.
Lewes started the second half brightly and called Rowley into action twice in quick succession, first saving bravely to deny Whelpdale after he got on the end of a Jake Elliott cross from the right, and then parrying a powerful strike from Wood after the Cray defence had been unable to clear a Harvey Hughes free-kick.
The visitors were finding it difficult to get in behind a Lewes defence being well-marshalled by Vint and Arthur Penney, but came close to levelling the scores in bizarre circumstances as a clearance from Harvey hit Derry on the head and bounced just wide.
Lewes nearly made the most of this let-off, as an incisive passing move down the right ended with Alfie Egan’s cut-back being parried by Rowley into the path of Gondoh, whose goal-bound effort was blocked, before Lumbombo-Kalala saw his strike on the rebound deflected behind.
Cray then enjoyed arguably their best spell of the game as they pushed for an equaliser, with Saunders-Henry seeing an attempted back-heel from a deep corner deflected just over the bar.
Their best chance to level the scores fell to Cameron Thompson, who saw his close-range strike superbly saved by Harvey after a Sam Wood free-kick had found him unmarked at the far post.
The Rooks saw out the closing stages comfortably and came close to doubling their lead through Whelpdale, who could only head a Gondoh cross from the right wide at the far post.
This didn’t prove decisive though, and the Lewes players and supporters were able to celebrate an impressive start to the season at full-time.
The Rooks will hope to build on this result when they travel to Tooting & Mitcham United FC on Wednesday to take on Kingstonian, kick-off at 7.45pm.
Lewes: Harvey, Elliott, Vint, Penney, Hughes, Murtagh (Tamplin 75), Egan, Whelpdale, Gondoh (Salmon 90), Lumbombo-Kalala, Wood.
Unused Subs: Panyi, Lyon-Monk.
Booked: Elliott, Murtagh, Tamplin.
Cray Wanderers: Rowley, Taylor, Mascoll, Black, Holland, Derry (Thompson 70), Clunis, Wood, Saunders-Henry (Campbell 76), Ijaha (Cook 57), Bamba.
Unused Subs: Rye, Penfold.
Booked: Mascoll, Black, Derry.