The Young Rooks welcomed Burgess Hill to the Pan on Thursday looking to progress to the second round of the Isthmian League Youth Cup, and maintained their 100% start to the season.
Dale Hurley made seven changes to the side that were victorious over Redhill last week, with first starts for 15-year-olds Jared Sumner and Alfie Mitchell and a return to the starting line-up for the first time in 10 months for Charlie Maguire, who missed the majority of last season through injury.
Looking to avenge their defeat to eventual winners Metropolitan Police in the semi-finals last year, the home side were hoping for a quick start and were nearly rewarded as George Mitchell-Phillips was denied by a last-ditch tackle in the first five minutes. Jay Popham was next to try his luck after being found by Shane Harper but could only screw his shot into Luca Pianno’s gloves.
The visitors looked happy to play a counter-attacking game and were unlucky not to be ahead with 15 minutes on the clock as Michael Howard-Bold tried his luck only to see his effort rebound off the post and to safety in a big let off for the Rooks.
This seemed to wake up Hurley’s men and they took the lead with 21 minutes played, after a superb delivery from the impressive Harper was met by Freeman who sent an unstoppable header over Pianno into the top left-hand corner.
Despite the goal, the Hillians were still a threat and were unlucky not to be level five minutes later as Howard-Bold fed James Hudson, who could only drag his shot wide when 1-on-1 with Taylor Seymour.
On the 35 minutes it looked as if the home side would have the chance to double their lead from the spot as Harper was clipped in the box but the referee instead gave the visitors a free-kick and booked the full-back for diving, to everyone’s disbelief.
The Rooks were now well on top and were finding joy down the right-hand side through Harper and Mitchell but were lacking the clinical edge required to find a much needed second goal as the first half drew to a close.
Hurley was forced into a change at half-time as Mitchell-Phillips was withdrawn with a quad injury seeing Louis Veneti replace him for his Under-18s debut.
With the message to bring Freeman and Conrad Honore into the game more and try to shift the away side’s defensive shape, a swift move found Sumner whose dangerous delivery caused a goalmouth scramble but was hacked clear with Nic D’Arenzio looking to pounce.
Hill believed they still had a chance to get something from the game with Hudson trying his luck again but being thwarted comfortably by Seymour.
Mitch Hewens and top scorer Callum Jenkins were introduced on the hour mark for Sumner and Maguire. With Hewens almost having an instant impact, firstly flashing a fantastic cross across the face of the goal, and then setting up Freeman who was inches away from his second with a curling effort from 20 yards out.
With the game going straight to penalties if tied, Lewes felt the urgency to make the scoreline more comfortable and introduced Ollie Young for his debut in place of Mitchell and it was Young who was next to try his luck as his snapshot flew harmlessly wide.
Hayden Beaconsfield then became the third 15-year-old to feature on the night as he replaced Popham following an impressive pre-season.Veneti was causing the Hill back line problems with his strong runs and was massively unlucky not to all but wrap up the game as he powered a diving header off the post following another Harper delivery.
The Rooks had dealt with the away side’s counter-attacking threat comfortably in the second half and were good value to go through, but were given a scare right at the end as Seymour came to clear the ball but only found Charlie Broad, who tried his luck from 40 yards but saw his effort fly over the bar, in the last action of the match.
A solid win for Hurley’s men with the scoreline perhaps not showing the dominance and comfort that the Rooks showed throughout the 90 minutes. Their second-round opponents are yet to be confirmed but will be announced within the next week.
We would like to wish Burgess Hill all the best for this season and look forward to our two further fixtures against them.
The squad are next in action in the FA Youth Cup game away to National League South side Dorking Wanderers on the 19th of September at Meadowbank (7:45pm ko). All support would be massively appreciated.
Lewes: Seymour, Harper, Whitemore, D’Arenzio, Maguire (Jenkins), Freeman, Honore, Mitchell (Young), Popham (Beaconsfield), Sumner (Hewens), Mitchell-Phillips (Veneti)