Lewes saw their FA Cup run come to an end with a 4-1 defeat at National League side Aldershot Town, but can leave Hampshire with their heads held high after a battling performance, reports Tom Harper, with pictures from James Boyes.
Tony Russell made a number of changes to the side, recalling experienced trio Alfie Egan, Kieran Murtagh and Chris Whelpdale to the starting line-up.
These changes saw Lewes line up with a back three, with Ayo Olukoga and Harvey Hughes slotting in at wing-back.
The Rooks made a good start, keeping possession well and looking to get Tommy Wood in behind the home defence.
Aldershot didn’t create a chance of note early on before taking the lead on 13 minutes with their first sight of goal, Lorent Tolaj seizing on a loose pass from Arthur Penney before slotting the ball past Nathan Harvey.
Tolaj doubled his and Aldershot’s tally just two minutes later, finishing from close range after being picked out by an Aaron Jones cut-back from the right.
Conceding twice in quick succession could easily have knocked Lewes off their stride completely, but they battled well to stay in the game as the half progressed.
The hosts continued to look dangerous every time they went forward though, and could have scored a third goal just after the half-hour, Josh Stokes exchanging passes with Tolaj before seeing his curling strike hit the inside of the post and helped off the line by the covering Jake Elliott.
This seemed to galvanise Lewes, who finised the half strongly, with Wood drawing a smart save from Jordi Van Strappershoef with a shot on the turn, before being denied by a fine last-ditch challenge by Coby Rowe minutes later.
The Rooks continued to apply pressure before the break, as a fine passing move down the right ended with a cut-back from Archie Tamplin finding Harvey Hughes on the edge of the area, and he saw his powerful strike cleared off the line.
Lewes remained on the front foot at the start of the second half and scored the goal their performance had deserved on 48 minutes, Wood running in behind down the left before curling a superb finish across Van Strappershoef and into the far corner.
This seemed to be the wake-up call the hosts had needed and they began to take control of the game again, with Harvey called into action to parry an Ollie Harfield strike before Joe Haigh blasted the rebound over the bar.
Aldershot did manage to score a third goal on 56 minutes, as Harvey once again reacted well to parry a Tolaj effort but the ball only went as far as Jones, who finished into the top corner from close range.
Once again, Lewes didn’t allow this setback to impact them too significantly and they continued to push for a route back into the game, with the impressive Wood stinging the palms of Van Strappershoef with a powerful half-volley after bringing down a Whelpdale cross.
The hosts had a measure of control heading into the closing stages though, using the ball well when they had it and looking to hit Lewes on the break as they committed more players forward.
As the Rooks became more fatigued late on, Aldershot scored a fourth in injury-time, an incisive move down the left ending with Tolaj steering a shot on the turn past Harvey and into the bottom corner to complete his hat-trick.
This was the final meaningful action of the game, leaving Lewes to reflect on an impressive FA Cup run and a 4-1 defeat that was perhaps slightly harsh on the day, with the players and management applauded at the end by the 184 travelling supporters.
Lewes return to league action when they welcome Enfield Town to the Pan on Saturday, kick-off at 3pm.
Aldershot Town: Van Strappershoef, Harfield, Harries, Rowe, Widdrington, Tolaj, Stokes, Glover (Anderson 87), Jones, Haigh (Frost 69), Willard (Mullins 84).
Unused Subs: Westen, Scott, Turner, Thomas.
Booked: Harfield, Rowe.
Lewes: Harvey, Olukoga (Tamplin 30), Elliott, Vint, Penney, Hughes, Murtagh, Egan (Pritchard 60), Sablier, Whelpdale (Dalling 69), Wood.
Unused Subs: Wickramasinghe, Lumbombo-Kalala, Salmon.
Booked: Elliott, Hughes, Murtagh Pritchard.
Attendance: 1,758 (184 Rooks fans)