Goals at the end of each half from Razz Coleman De-Graft and Joe Taylor saw Lewes start 2022 with a 2-0 win over ten-man Bognor Regis Town at the Pan, reports Tom Harper.
Tony Russell made one change to the side that won 3-1 at Horsham in their previous game, with Bradley Pritchard replacing Tom Phipp in the starting line-up.
Lewes started the game well and could have scored twice in the opening stages, with Taylor Maloney shooting over when well placed, before Razz Coleman De-Graft missed his kick with the goal gaping just minutes later.
The Rooks were dominating the game, moving the ball quickly and always looking capable of getting in behind the Bognor defence.
Maloney soon went close again, latching onto a Bradley Pritchard through-ball, rounding Amadou Tangara in the Bognor goal and dragging his effort just wide from a tight angle.
The visitors were finding it difficult to get out of their half and nearly played themselves into trouble, as Pritchard won the ball back high up the pitch and played Joe Taylor through, with only a superb last-ditch challenge stopping him from testing Tangara.
Tangara was called into action during Lewes’ next attack, reacting superbly to push an Iffy Allen volley round the post.
Bognor gradually found a foothold as the game approached half-time and nearly took the lead through Nathan Odokonyero, who cut inside from the left before seeing a curling effort spectacularly saved by the previously untroubled Lewis Carey.
The Rooks finally took the lead their first-half performance had deserved right on the stroke of half-time, as Taylor controlled a Carey goal-kick before teeing up De-Graft to unleash an unstoppable 30-yard strike that flew past Tangara and in off the inside of the post.
Lewes started the second half with the same intent they had shown throughout the first and nearly doubled their lead within minutes of the restart, with Will Salmon squeezing an effort under Tangara from a Maloney corner, only for the ball to hit the inside of the post before being scrambled off the line.
De-Graft and Maloney both went close minutes later, Tangara saving well to deny the former before the latter blazed the rebound wide.
The Rooks were handed a further advantage just after the hour, as Bognor midfielder Charlie Bell was shown a second yellow card for tripping Maloney.
Despite being down to ten men, the visitors were starting to pass the ball incisively and nearly levelled the scores when former Lewes midfielder Kayne Diedrick-Roberts, introduced as a substitute only minutes earlier, saw a powerful 25-yard strike hit the bar.
Bognor were seeing more of the ball than they had done at any point in the game, but were unable to turn possession into clear-cut opportunities heading into the closing stages.
Lewes nearly secured the points in the final minute of normal time, but saw Tangara make another smart save to keep out an effort from Taylor after good work by De-Graft.
Taylor was able to retrieve the loose ball after this save though, and was tripped in the area by Joe Dandy as he attempted to turn and run at goal.
Taylor took the penalty himself, and sent Tangara the wrong way from the spot to make it 2-0 and ensure Lewes started 2022 in the same way they had finished 2021 – with an impressive derby win.
Photos thanks to James Boyes.
Today’s progcast can be read here.
Match highlights, thanks to Your Instant Replay, can be found here.
The Rooks will hope to take this form into their next game at Kingstonian on Monday, kick-off at 3pm.
Lewes: Carey, Spencer (Colombie 79), Carlse, Salmon, Nelson, Klass (Olukoga 88), Pritchard, Maloney (Parker 66), Allen, De-Graft, Taylor.
Unused Subs: Weaire, Dalling.
Bognor Regis Town: Tangara, Dandy, Crane (Leigh 46), Robb, Cook, Robson, Brook, Bell, Odokonyero, Gifford, Mongoy (Diedrick-Roberts 66).
Unused Subs: Howick, Wyatt.
Sent off: Bell.