An injury-time equaliser from Jonte Smith saw Lewes come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with National League South side Hemel Hempstead Town, and earn a thoroughly deserved replay on Tuesday after an entertaining FA Trophy third qualifying round tie at the Pan, reports Tom Harper.
Darren Freeman made three changes to the side that lost 1-0 to Brighton & Hove Albion U23s in the Sussex Senior Cup, with Frankie Chappell, Luke Blewden and Sam Karl replacing Tom Day, Harry Reed and the cup-tied Kieron Pamment in the starting line-up.
Lewes made a bright start to the game and could have gone ahead inside the first minute, as James Hammond shot over the bar from just inside the area after good play down the right by Luke Blewden.
The visitors also seemed keen to score early on though, and arguably should have taken the lead just minutes later, as the unmarked Ismail Yakubu headed a left-wing corner over from close range.
The Rooks continued to impress as the half progressed and saw an Omarr Lawson strike from the edge of the area deflected just wide.
From the resulting corner, the ball was eventually worked back to Hammond, whose low cross-shot was cleared from almost on the line by Yakubu.
It was an end-to-end game throughout the first half, and Lewis Carey was soon forced into action to keep out a close-range Steve Cawley effort before the ball was eventually scrambled clear.
Lewes were looking particularly dangerous from set pieces, and saw both Jonte Smith and Blewden miss the target in quick succession with headers from Hammond corners after they had been left unmarked.
The visitors made the most of this let-off by taking the lead nine minutes before the break, Cawley heading a Kyle Connolly cross from the left past Carey from close range.
Hemel doubled their lead inside the first minute of the second half, as Cawley steered a Scott Shulton cross past Carey and into the bottom corner after Henri Wilder had been dispossessed inside the area.
It was difficult to see a way back for Lewes at this stage as Hemel looked for a third goal to secure the win, with Jordan Parkes drawing a fine save from Carey, before Jack Snelus saw a dipping effort from the edge of the area go just over the bar.
Darren Freeman made a double substitution just after the hour, introducing Marcus Elliott and Tom Day in place of Blewden and Sam Karl, changes which saw the Rooks switch to a back three, with Steve Brinkhurst and Wilder playing as wing backs.
These changes gave Lewes more impetus going forward just when the game seemed to be getting away from them and they pulled a goal back after 74 minutes through Wilder, who made a late run into the box to head a Hammond cross from the right past Laurie Walker and into the bottom corner to bring the Rooks back into the game.
This goal unsurprisingly galvanised Lewes, but they were still finding it difficult to get in behind the Hemel back four as they searched for an equaliser, with a long-range Lawson effort which landed on the roof of the net being the closest they had come as the game headed into injury-time.
The Rooks nearly equalised in spectacular fashion deep into stoppage time, with Carey, sent forward to try and salvage a draw, heading a Hammond corner just wide.
There was still time for one final chance though, as the outstanding Lawson was played in down the left and he crossed for Smith to cleverly flick the ball across Walker and just inside the far post to score a deserved equaliser and ensure the Rooks would be in the hat for the FA Trophy first round draw on Monday.
Darren was full of praise for the team when he spoke to Barry Collins after the game.
Highlights of the game can be watched here.
You can read today’s Progcast here.
Lewes will hope to build on this positive display and result when they visit Hemel Hempstead Town for the replay on Tuesday, kick-off at 7.45pm.
Lewes: Carey, Brinkhurst, Wilder, Dome-Bemwin, Chappell, Freeman, Smith, Hammond, Blewden (Elliott 61), Lawson, Karl (Day 61).
Unused Subs: Barclay, Gifford, Reed.
Hemel Hempstead Town: Walker, Shulton, Connolly, Parkes, Ward, Yakubu, Osborn (Oliyide 59), Kaloczi, Cawley, Sinclair, Snelus (Ibe 77).
Unused Subs: Nolan, Pavlin.
Referee: Ryan Atkin