A second-half penalty from Joe Taylor saw Lewes come from behind to secure a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Aveley in biblical conditions at the Pan, reports Tom Harper.
Tony Russell made three changes to the side that progressed in the FA Trophy following a penalty shoot-out victory over Chesham United, with Bradley Pritchard, Ronan Silva and Razz Coleman De-Graft replacing Marcel Elva-Fountaine, Ayo Olukoga and Rhys Murrell-Williamson in the starting line-up.
Aveley knew coming into the game that they could go top with a win and took an early lead through George Sykes, who finished from close range just eight minutes in after good work down the right by Kenny Aileru.
Lewes enjoyed plenty of possession as they looked for an immediate response, but were unable to turn this into clear-cut chances against their well-organised visitors.
Despite not seeing much of the ball, the better chances were falling to Aveley, who saw Kayne Diedrick-Roberts flagged offside as he ran in behind and finished past Lewis Carey.
Diedrick-Roberts went close again minutes later, being found in time and space on the edge of the area but only managing to drag his shot wide.
The intermittent torrential downpours were making it difficult for both sides, but the pitch was holding up exceptionally well and allowing Lewes to continue to pass and probe as they looked for a way back into the game approaching half-time.
The visitors should arguably have gone into the break further ahead though, with Carey forced intoa smart save to deny Sykes in an almost carbon copy of Aveley’s goal.
Then, from the resulting corner, the unmarked Ryan Scott somehow managed to miss the target with a volley from almost on the goal-line.
The start of the second half followed a similar pattern to the first, Lewes seeing more of the ball and Aveley always posing a threat on the break.
The Rooks were handed a route back into the game just after the hour, as substitute Rhys Murrell-Williamson saw his purposeful run ended in the area by an unnecessary, cynical challenge from Blaise Riley-Snow, giving the referee one of the more straightforward penalties he’s likely to have to award this season.
Joe Taylor sent Jonathan North the wrong way from the spot, levelling the scores and giving Lewes just under half an hour to find a winner.
The Rooks nearly took the lead within two minutes of equalising, a Jamie Mascoll corner from the right somehow evading everyone before bouncing just wide of the far post.
Aveley continued to pose a threat themselves though, with Carey reacting well to turn a Garrett Kelly volley round the post.
Set-pieces were proving understandably difficult to defend in the conditions, and the visitors nearly benefitted from this when a Diedrick-Roberts corner from the left was missed at the near post and eventually cleared off the line.
Lewes dominated possession late on and spent the majority of the final ten minutes camped in Aveley’s half, but apart from a powerful Mascoll free-kick that North sensibly chose to punch over the bar, were unable to turn this into clear-cut opportunities, leaving both sides with a hard-earned point after an entertaining game in challenging conditions.
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You can read the progcast here.
The Rooks travel to Brightlingsea Regent on Saturday, kick-off at 3pm.
Lewes: Carey, Renee, Mascoll, Champion, Salmon, Young, Hyde, Pritchard (Skinner 79), De-Graft, Silva (Murrell-Williamson 36), Taylor.
Unused Subs: Nelson, Olukoga, Dalling.
Booked: Hyde, De-Graft.
Aveley: North, Nzengo, Stephen, Witherspoon, Scott, Gibbs, Aileru, Kelly, Sykes, Riley-Snow, Diedrick-Roberts.
Unused Subs: Shabani, Dicks, Odelusi, Dasho, Vaivada.