It’s a huge few days for Tony Russell’s side who firstly welcome Hornchurch to the Pan tomorrow before Brightlingsea Regent on Tuesday.
The Rooks battled hard in one of the hardest fixtures on the calendar last week, eventually drawing 2-2 with Hornchurch. Tony reflects on what he feels was a very good performance from his team.
“Hornchurch was a good game to be part of. A game I was disappointed for us to not get the three points. We were leading late on but I’m extremely proud of this group and how far we’ve come.
“There’s no getting away from it, Hornchurch are an exceptional side. We alluded to it in the build-up, they went and got Ade Yusuff from Folkestone and already had Sam Higgins.
“They also had Nash in the 10 behind him who’s an exceptional player so they had quality all over. It was always going to be tough for us.
“The pitch was tricky and I don’t think it suited either side, but considering it was quite bobbly, I think both sets of players served up a great game.
“It was very tense, the atmosphere was tense, it had a sort of cup final feel to it. We had to withstand pressure, the boys had to defend their box, and we punched them back.”
Tony was particularly happy with the goal from Joe Taylor which he says was right from the training ground.
“We scored an outstanding first goal, we had worked on it, switching the ball and got a 2v1 out wide, Deon put a lovely ball in and JT scored a left-foot volley across the goalkeeper.
“That goal was made out of the week before. We watched a video back from Billericay’s goal. It wasn’t a great cross, but the forward’s movement was exceptional.
“He literally got across the front of the centre-halves bang on cue to flick the ball in. I know how JT works and I know he’s always self-programming. He 100% would have watched that and thought he can take something from it.
“That’s why he continues to get better, that’s why he’s a better player than he was probably three-years ago at Cray, I think he’s getting better and better. I was so impressed with the goal, it’s a great cross from Deon but the movement from JT to get across and it’s a lovely volley.
“We couldn’t see the away fans because of the running track dynamics but could hear the roar go up and it really added to the atmosphere.”
Tony has talked numerous times this season about big moments in games that cost them and felt disheartened by a couple again.
“Hornchurch being the side they are, came at us straight away, put us under pressure, we had to defend our box really well, Lew made an excellent save from Higgins, half-volley, tipped over the bar.
“Then we’re talking about moments in the game where if we’d taken a chance, I believe we would’ve won the game. The first one is when we’re 1-0 up, JT has played a 1-2 with Razz, in on goal and at the angle he’s dragged it wide.
“That would put us 2-0, we didn’t take it, they’ve gone up the other end and young Archie, he’s got a little bit tight, his very first game for us, he got rolled by Ade and it’s 1-1.
“I felt we edged that half just about and second-half the put us under immense pressure, Higgins again, chest, scissor-kick, Lew Carey makes a really good save.
“We kept soaking it up and as the game went on we pushed them back, it was interesting because it got to 60/65 minutes and you’re asking yourself, ‘do we take a draw?’ but I wanted to stay positive.
“We made positive subs, took a holding midfielder off, brought Bradley Pritchard on, then freshened it up by bringing Ryan Gondoh on and we broke on them and scored.
“Gondoh’s made it 2-1, then we talk about them big moments again in games, with five minutes to go, we’ve broken them, Gondoh makes a 1-2 with Hydey, he’s clean-through, just the goalie to beat, edge of the D, the goalie makes a save, and again they go up the other end and score.
“Again, I think young Archie has got a bit tight, with a throw, gets rolled, they win a corner, comes in and Higgins scored.
On reflection though, he believes it was a fair result.
“Having led the game with five minutes to go, you’re naturally going to feel disappointed, but you’ve also got to respect what Hornchurch done in the game and they certainly contributed to that.
“Maybe on reflection it’s a fair result but obviously having led twice with good opportunities to get two-goal cushions, we’re a bit disappointed.
“But we’re proud of our participation in another good game of football, it’s great winning games, that’s what we want but I also enjoy contributing to good games of football and I think anyone in the ground would have appreciated the levels and skill level of both sets of players.”
Tomorrow, fellow playoff-hopefuls Enfield Town come to the Pan and Tony knows what’s at stake.
“Onto Enfield and it’s another big game against a side that’s up there. Training was disrupted with the snow this week, we had to change venue, so the prep hasn’t been the best.
“Every side we play will pose different threats, Billericay we spoke about their exceptional pace on the break, same with Horsham, Bishop’s Stortford we spoke about their ability to put balls in the box.
“Enfield bring a real traditional non-league side, almost close from when I very started playing and managing. So, what you’ll get is big centre-halves, long throws, a 6ft5 forward, set-plays, but they have good players as well, hard-working.
“Every set-play they’re a threat, we speak about this a lot, and we’ve had success against them in the three times I’ve been at Lewes, we’ve managed, to win I think 4-1, 4-1, and 4-2, but I’ve watched them a few times and we’re a complete contrast of styles.
“There’s no right or wrong way, there’s their way and there’s our way, if we can dictate the way we want to play then I think we’ll win the game.
“If we don’t, and they dictate what they do really well, it’ll be a hard game and we’ll get beat. There’s no doubt in my mind. If you don’t deal with it, don’t stop it at source, then they’re an exceptional side.
“Good forward players, good defenders, manager’s decent, so they’re a really good, honest side that work hard. Just a real good non-league side.
“So, we’re going to have to play well, implement our style, turn it into a football match, stand-up to what they’re going to bring, be aggressive in the air, clear our areas, but also when we get the opportunity, bring it down and play our football.
“That’s the key to the game right there, whether we win, lose or draw, that is it. It’s a huge game, big week with Brightlingsea on the Tuesday. 10 games to go, four at home, six away, it’s the business end now. We’re excited about it.”
Lastly, he gave an update on the playing squad ahead of the game.
“Johnville has left for Enfield, so we’ll see him on Saturday. Huge fan of him as a player and person, it’s a real big miss for us. Me and the boys really enjoyed having Johnville.
“Enfield had a conversation with him and he decided it was best for him to move on and go Enfield. We wish him all the best, we’re a little bit disappointed that he’s gone but we also must appreciate that’s football.
“A week earlier, we let Jamie Mascoll go so it’s swings and roundabouts in football. We are a little bit light with the squad, currently only 14 players. We’re working extremely hard to bring one or two in and we’re close to one.
“We want to try and make sure we bring the right ones in, not just bring a body in for the sake of bringing a body in but we’re trying to get someone in for Saturday.”
It goes without saying that all of us at Lewes thank Johnville for his efforts at the club and playing a huge part in the season.
Lewes FC vs. Enfield Town tickets
The match on Saturday is at 3:00pm. You can buy Lewes FC tickets for the game online and skip the queue at the gate. Online ticket prices are as follows:
Adults – £12
Concessions – £8
Kids U16 – Free
Beach Huts – £110
Photo: James Boyes