A second-half goal from Tommy Wood helped Lewes return to winning ways in the league with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Cheshunt at the Pan. Reports Tom Harper, photos from James Boyes.
Tony Russell made two changes to the side that won 3-1 at KSK Beveren in the Fenix Trophy on Tuesday, with Chris Whelpdale and Ola Ogunwamide replacing Archie Tamplin and Deon Moore in the starting line-up.
There was a real buzz around the club after the midweek trip to Belgium, but Cheshunt did their best to extinguish this by taking the lead inside the first minute, winning the ball deep inside the Lewes half before working it to Antonis Vasiliou to finish from close range.
The Rooks immediately pushed for a response and saw Ogunwamide shoot just over the bar from the edge of the area.
Cheshunt nearly doubled their lead minutes later, Taylor Miles winning possession 30 yards out before bearing down on goal and seeing his attempted lob drop just wide with Nathan Harvey beaten.
This let-off appeared to galavanise Lewes, who levelled the scores on 18 minutes, Whelpdale seeing an inswinging corner from the left cleared back out to him, where he sent a superb cross with the outside of his foot into the danger area, where Jimmy Wallace could only slice the ball into his own net.
The Rooks dominated the remainder of the first half, with Ogunwamide cutting in from the right and seeing his curling strike hit the far post, before Whelpdale blasted a close-range effort over the bar after being teed up by Wood following more good play down the right by Ogunwamide.
Their best chance to take the lead before the break fell to the impressive Luke Dreher, who could only fire over the bar at the end of another fine move down the right.
Lewes remained on the front foot at the start of the second half, as Whelpdale tested Joe Rose in the Cheshunt goal within minutes of the restart.
The visitors had found it difficult to create chances since their strong start, but came close to taking the lead for a second time when Harvey was forced into a fine save to tip an acrobatic Andre Godfrinne effort over the bar.
Lewes soon regained control though, and took a deserved lead on 56 minutes, as Wood sent a glancing header from a Sam Oguntayo cross past Rose and into the bottom corner.
Cheshunt briefly threatened an equaliser, forcing a succession of corners after substitute Nnamadi Nwachukwu had seen a 25-yard strike deflected just wide, but were unable to force Harvey into any meaningful action.
The Rooks were seeing the game out reasonably comfortably and came close to scoring a third goal, as Archie Tamplin did well to create space for himself before seeing his deflected shot force Rose into a smart save.
This ensured the closing stages, including five minutes of injury-time, would be nervy for the home fans, but the closest the visitors came to an equaliser saw Solomon Baugh head tamely at Harvey when well placed at the far post, leaving Lewes to close the game out and record a much-needed and deserved win in their final game before Christmas.
The Rooks return to action when they visit Whitehawk on Boxing Day, kick-off at 3pm.
Lewes: Harvey, Olukoga, Salmon, Elliott, Oguntayo, Penney, Dreher (Pritchard 90), Whelpdale (Tamplin 81), Ogunwamide, Lumbombo-Kalala (Moore 81), Wood.
Unused Subs: Vint, Murtagh.
Cheshunt: Rose, Titchmarsh, Kuffour (Noel-Williams 58), Orafu (Kastrati 78), McKenzie, Wallace, Vasiliou, Moutawafiq, Godfrinne (Nwachukwu 60), Baugh, Miles.
Unused Subs: Ekongo, Reynolds.