The under-18s exited the FA Youth Cup on Thursday evening following a disappointing defeat away to ten-man Dorking Wanderers.
Dale Hurley recalled James Beresford, Brad Santos,Callum Jenkins and Mitch Hewens to the starting line-up following last week’s routine Isthmian League Cup victory at home to Burgess Hill.
The hosts, in their impressive new surroundings at Meadowbank, were hoping to put the young Rooks under early pressure in what was their opening game of the Youth Cup this season.
It was the Rooks who started the game brightly,forcing a couple of free-kicks and building up early pressure on the Wanderers goal without really creating any clear-cut opportunities.
The hosts’ game plan was clear – allow the visitors possession when the ball was at the feet of goalkeeper Taylor Seymour or centre-backs Ben Whitmore and Nick D’Arienzo, and then look to press when balls were played out to the full-backs or midfield. Wanderers were alsol ooking to ruffle the Rooks’ feathers early on with a number of forceful challenges that went unpunished by the referee, much to the frustration of the Lewes bench and coaching staff.
It was a scrappy start to the contest and it took until the 18th minute for the first real piece of goalmouth action,an in-swinging Hewens corner was headed harmlessly wide at the back post byJenkins when he perhaps could have done better. Seven minutes later and Hewens was again involved, this time with some neat interplay with Harper down the left that forced a corner.
The Rooks continued to probe, moving the ball from front to back, right to left to try and create an opening. Some good interplay in the 29th minute involving Santos and Hewens forced the Wanderers stopper Joshua Barnett into a good save at his near post, denying Hewens from six yards. The resulting rebound found its way back out to Beresford on the right and his cross was perfect for Hewens, but he could only loop a header straight to the keeper who clutched it under his crossbar.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic and the hosts were having their moments but the Rooks were frustrating them, forcing pot-shots from deep that troubled the neighbouring houses more than Seymour in the visitors’ goal.
The hosts’ frustration boiled over in the 34th minute when forward Josgue Taylor innocuously kicked out at Santos off the ball after the pair had contested a high ball moments before on the right hand side.The referee spotted it this time, issuing a straight red for Taylor, reducing the hosts to ten men for the remaining hour of the contest.
The remainder of the half petered out with half chances for both sides but the deadlock could not be broken.
Dorking adjusted their shape at the start of the second half, switching to a back five to try and stem attacks and frustrate the visitors going forwards.
This appeared, for a time, to actually open the game up for the Rooks with chances coming and going in the opening 10 minutes of the second period. On 47 minutes, Brad Santos saw two strikes charged down and then Jenkins saw his 30-yard free-kick comfortably claimed by the keeper.
Between these, Wanderers’ George Membrilla provided an outlet for his side, carrying the ball from the halfway line to fire a cross-come shot across the face of Seymour’s goal. This was a warning to the visitors that the home side were still well in the game, despite the numerical disadvantage.
The Rooks positive start to the half was interrupted on 54 minutes when the referee halted play as he was suffering what initially seemed to be a calf injury. Thus ensued a farcical ten-minute period in which the referee received treatment, started the game again only to pull up again a few moments later. His position was taken over by one of his assistants, with a member of the crowd now acting as linesman.
When play resumed a Wanderers set-piece on 60 minutes allowed a free header for Joshua Wells from within the six-yard box, but he was only able to guide it wide of Seymour’s far post.
Dale Hurley responded by bringing on Jay Popham on 63 minutes and Louis Veneti on 68 to try and inject pace and power to the Rooks attack.
It was the hosts, however, who continued to create further opportunities, the best one coming on 72 minutes when Seymour, backpedalling, tipped a wicked free-kick from wide onto the crossbar and out for a corner. The resulting set-piece was fired in at the near post and Seymour again did well to smother the ball from the oncoming attacker to give the visitors some much needed respite.
Four minutes later, though, there was no let-off as the hosts took the lead following a poor passage of play from the Rooks.
A high looping ball was headed backwards by Veneti to a Wanderers attacker. The ball was fed out left to the pacey Membrilla. Itseemed as if Whitmore had this covered but he seemed to lose his footing on the artificial surface, allowing Membrilla to stride clear 1v1 and he finished under Seymour to send the home side and their fans into raptures.
The Rooks still had over ten minutes to find a response and their best two opportunities came in quick succession on 78 and 80 minutes, first Veneti directed a header onto the crossbar, then Popham and Veneti were both denied by a combination of goalkeeper and defender following excellent work by Harper on the left.
That was an end to the chances for both sides as the hosts, much like the theme of the rest of the game, broke up play and stifled the visitors comfortably to book their place in the hat for the next round. That’s not to take anything away from Wanderers who, on the balance of play, deserved to win this game.
For the young Rooks there will be some disappointment for certain members of the squad who would feel they didn’t quite do enough and produce their best performance on the night. Performances so far haven’t hit the heights of last season and this may well give them a much needed push to go on another unbeaten run this term.
It’s back to league action next week when we welcome Shoreham to the Dripping Pan on Thursday 26th September. kick-off 7:45pm, looking to make it two wins from two.
All support is gratefully received.
Lewes: Seymour, Beresford, Harper, Honore (Popham), Whitmore, D’Arienzo, Santos, Jenkins (C), Mitchell-Phillips (Veneti),Freeman, Hewens
Subs not used: Allen, Doidge, Beaconsfield, Young