The under-18s continued their unbeaten start in the Isthmian Youth League on Thursday evening with an ultimately comfortable 3-0 win over Shoreham at the Pan, writes Craig Stevens.
Dale Hurley kept faith with eight of the side who fell to the disappointing FA Youth Cup defeat to Dorking Wanderers last week, with a recall for Jay Popham and first starts for Louis Veneti and Ollie Young since signing for the club in the summer.
Shoreham arrived here on the back of a 1-0 reverse to Bognor Regis in their opening league fixture and the Rook were looking to increase the visitors’ agony here – the Rooks plundered 17 goals without reply over the two corresponding league meetings last season, but the visitors had made a number of signing over the summer and the hosts knew this would not be an easy game.
The Rooks started the game on the front foot and the best opportunity of the first half came on just three minutes when a free-kick on the right from Hewens found its way through to Jenkins on the edge of the six-yard box, but he was unable to get good contact on the ball and a combination of the Shoreham keeper and defenders were able to scramble the ball off the line. Other than this opening foray, the Rooks were unable to seriously trouble the Shoreham stopper in the opening quarter of an hour of the contest,with pot shots from Popham and Young troubling the stand and side-netting respectively rather than the visitors keeper.
They did force him into action on 18 minutes, however, when a wind assisted Santos free kick from 30 yards was acrobatically tipped over for a corner kick which came to nothing.
The only other real action of note during the first half were further pot shots by Young and Santos on 23 and 27 minutes that both flew over the crossbar, followed by a Veneti header on 42 drifting harmlessly wide of the Shoreham goal when unopposed following a Jenkins free-kick.
Dale Hurley introduced George Mitchell-Phillips for the fatigued James Beresford at the break and adjusted the formation to a 3-4-1-2 looking to put the visitors under increasing pressure in the second period. This didn’t seem to alter the pattern of the game during the opening 15 minutes of the half, with the Rooks continuing to be frustrated by the resolute visitors’ rear-guard.
It took until the introduction of both Tegan Freeman and Hayden Beaconsfield on 61 and 64 minutes respectively to add an injection of quality and energy in the middle of the park. The hosts began to fashion out some clearer opportunities, stretching the visitors for the first time. The first clear-cut chance came on 67 minutes when an excellent cross-field pass by Jenkins found Santos on the right-hand side and his cross-cum-shot was smothered by the keeper with Veneti lurking.
Santos was involved again on 70 minutes when the much-needed breakthrough finally came for the Rooks.
A ball from Freeman found Santos just over the half-way line and he made an excellent driving run at the heart of the visitors’ defence that was halted by a retreating defender, 25 yards from goal. Set-piece specialist Callum Jenkins added to his individual account for the season with another well-executed free-kick that found its way through the wall and past the despairing dive of the keeper. 1-0.
Santos was then denied himself on 79 minutes when an excellent reverse ball from Mitchell-Phillips released him in behind, but his subsequent strike could only find the keepers legs and was scrambled clear by the tiring Shoreham defence. Santos himself returned the favour on 80 minutes when his excellent delivery from the right found Mitchell-Phillips on the penalty spot, but this time he was denied from point-blank range by an excellent save from the Shoreham keeper, who it must be said had an excellent game.
It was all Lewes at this stage and the second, game-clinching goal arrived on 82 minutes – substitute Beaconsfield got himself on the ball and carried it deep into the opposition’s half where he unleashed a crisp, low strike that found the bottom-right corner for his first goal in a Lewes shirt. A well-deserved reward for the patience and professionalism he has shown since joining the squad in the summer.
This settled any nerves the young Rooks had and the third goal arrived in stoppage time when Popham touched in on the goalline from another excellent drilled cross from the right by Santos to seal the three points.
Credit must go to the young Rooks here – they did not dwell on the poor, pedestrian first-half performance and ultimately sealed a comfortable victory in the second half, aided by the key introductions of Beaconsfield and Freeman.
Performances will need to improve if they are to defend their Isthmian League title this season, with sterner tests against Worthing and Whitehawk in particular to come, but for now the unbeaten run continues and the team look forward to continuing that momentum in just over a week’s time when they visit Bognor Regis on Monday, 7th October, 7:45pm kick off.
Lewes: Seymour ©, Beresford (Mitchell-Phillips), Harper, Whitmore, D’Arienzo, Young (Freeman), Santos, Jenkins, Hewens (Beaconsfield), Popham
Subs not used: Payton, Mitchell
MOM: Hayden Beaconsfield