A hardworking team performance saw Lewes claim an impressive 3-1 victory at an improving Ashford United side and maintain their five-point lead at the top of the Bostik South, reports Tom Harper.
Darren Freeman made one change to the side that had beaten Shoreham 4-0 in their previous game, with Jamie Brotherton replacing Ronnie Conlon in the starting line-up.
The opening stages of the game saw no chances of note for either side, although the hosts were looking comfortable in possession and seemed keen to play out from the back where possible.
The first chance of the game fell to Lewes, who saw Bouwe Bosma volley a Charlie Coppola cross from the right wide of the upright after good football in midfield.
Lewes were gradually beginning to control of the game and took the lead after 18 minutes through Frankie Chappell, who lost his marker to head a James Hammond free-kick past George Kamurasi in the Ashford goal.
Without playing at their best, the Rooks were looking relatively comfortable, and saw Bosma volley over the bar from close range, before a deflected Hammond strike also went just over as they looked to extend their lead.
The game became disjointed in the closing stages of the half, with both sides seeing players penalised for late challenges.
This seemed to suit Ashford, who had the final chance of the half, which Sid Sollis sent just wide from the edge of the area.
The hosts started the second half brightly, but the first opportunity fell to Lewes, with Leon Redwood just missing the target with a long-range effort.
Ashford began to control the game at this stage and saw Sollis force a smart save from the previously untroubled Chris Winterton with a powerful strike from 25 yards.
The hosts were forcing a number of corners and it was from one of these set-pieces that they really should have equalised, as the Lewes defence somehow managed to block two goal-bound efforts before the ball eventually went behind for yet another corner.
Lewes were struggling to get out of their own half at this stage and were given another let-off just minutes later, with Sollis heading a cross from the left against the bar.
The Rooks had done well to withstand such heavy pressure for long periods of the second half and punished Ashford for these missed chances after 78 minutes, as Smith was played in down the right and finished past Kamurasi at his near post to double Lewes’ lead before celebrating with the impressive contingent of travelling fans behind the goal.
Lewes secured the three points in spectacular fashion just two minutes later through Hammond, who send a superb, dipping 25-yard strike past Kamurasi and into the top corner to make it 3-0 with just ten minutes left to play.
To their credit, Ashford continued to look for a route back into the game and saw a powerful far-post header from a corner hit the underside of the bar before being scrambled clear.
The Rooks were sensing more goals themselves though, as substitute Billy Medlock latched onto a through-ball from Ronnie Conlon but saw his effort come back off the outside of the post.
The hosts scored the goal their second-half performance had arguably deserved in stoppage time from the penalty spot, as Dean Grant blasted his spot-kick straight down the middle after Chappell misjudged a long ball forward and appeared to handle the ball in the area.
This was the last meaningful action of the game, and the Rooks were able to celebrate a hard-fought three points with the travelling fans at full-time.
After the match Darren spoke of his pride in the performance with Barry Collins.
Lewes will hope to maintain this form when they host Ramsgate at the Pan on Wednesday, kick-off at 7.45pm.
Ashford United: Kamurasi, Robinson (O. Williams 83), McLennan, Thomas, Howlett-Mundle, Kingwell, Johnson-Palmer, Blackwood, Grant, Ajakaiye (Woodcock 83), Sollis.
Unused Subs: B. Williams, Lee-Wharton.
Booked: Robinson, Blackwood.
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, Redwood, Hammond (Lawson 82), Chappell, Cotton, Bosma, Sow, Smith (Medlock 82), Brotherton (Conlon 53), Coppola.
Unused Subs: George, Hurley.