The Rooks showed some top form as they beat Phoenix Sports in a game full of talking points on a freezing cold afternoon in Barnehurst, reports Stuart Fuller.
Darren was able to choose from almost the same starting XI as he played against Greenwich Borough last week, the only change being Bouwe Bosma coming into the side at the expense of Jamie Brotherton who was absent due to sickness. Wilf Grimaud replaced Nathan Stroomberg on the bench having returned from his spell at Newhaven.
The Rooks started the game looking to stretch the home side on a bitterly cold afternoon, with both Charlie Coppola and Ronnie Conlon looking lively. However, it was the home side who took a surprise lead when Jonny Miller took a pass from Jeffrey Duah-Kessie in his stride and stroked it past Chris Winterton with just six minutes played. Just a few minutes later it should have been a second for the home side as Duah-Kessie fired wide from a great position just inside the box. This was certainly not the way Lewes had planned for the afternoon to progress.
With fifteen minutes played Lewes won a corner and from Gus Sow’s pinpoint delivery Frankie Chappell headed home much to the delight of the 40 or so Rooks fans who had made the journey. Lewes continued to dominate and but for a final touch should have been a couple of goals to the good as both Ronnie Conlon and Jonte Smith missed chances. The Bermudan made amends with the goal of the game on the half-hour mark by chasing a difficult ball out wide on the right and seeing the keeper off his line, lobbed him with style.
Jonte almost had a second five minutes later but Phillips in the Sports goal was alive to his intentions and smothered the ball just as Smith was about to dance around him. The first of two controversial incidents in a short space of time occurred in the fortieth minute. Phoenix midfielder Carvalho went for a challenge with Leon Redwood and caught him late. Opinions were split as to his intentions but the referee saw them as deliberate and he was given a straight red card. However, five minutes later it was their turn to receive a slice of luck as the referee saw a Sports free-kick from 25 yards hit a Lewes arm in the wall and pointed to the spot. Ashley Proberts stepped up and sent Winnie the wrong way.
But there was still some more action let in the half. A swift Rooks attack saw the ball played wide to Charlie and he beat his man (twice) and reached the by-line. The winger then slipped inside another defender and fired the ball across the six-yard line where it hit Ryan Andrews and bounced into the net to give the Rooks a 3-2 half-time lead.
It would have been unfair to expect the same levels of excitement in the second period but Lewes certainly pressed for more goals. The first bit of action of the half saw Bouwe Bosma felled in midfield then receive a yellow card for “simulation” much to the amusement of the Phoenix bench. Ronnie Conlon had a good chance after beating his man but shot high and wide, whilst some neat combination play between Brinky and Charlie resulted in a cry from a certain Rooks fan that we were “trying to walk the ball into the net like Arsenal”.
Lewes continued to press with both Ronnie and Charlie having chances, whilst every time the Rooks had a corner it felt like they would score, with some desperate defending at times being the only barrier to more goals. Billy Medlock replaced Jonte Smith on the hour and gave the home defence something new to worry about as he made some intelligent runs, none more so than the one that allowed Charlie Coppola to run almost the whole length of the field before his shot was smothered.
With seven minutes to play Lewes finally got their fourth goal from the penalty spot after Gus was tripped in the area, again from a corner, right in front of the referee. Billy Medlock stepped up and scored his first goal of 2018. There was still time for more pinball in the area as another corner caused chaos but somehow the ball stayed out of the net.
Understandably, Darren was very happy with another three points when he spoke to Barry Collins after the game.
Next up for the Rooks is the re-arranged home game with Shoreham on Wednesday 28th February, kick off 7:45pm at the Pan.
Phoenix Sports: Phillips, Andrews, Probets, Hopkins (Bennett – 88 mins), Young, Barry, Carvalho, Robinson, Duah-Kessie (Allen – 62mins), Miller, Ogboe (Aldridge – 80mins)
Subs not used: Mingle, Allsopp
Booked: Allen, Andrews, Robinson
Sent off: Carvalho
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, Redwood, Hammond, Chappell, Cotton, Bosma, Sow, Smith (Medlock – 60mins), Coppola (George – 88mins), Conlon (Reed – 85 mins)
Subs not used: Hurley, Grimaud