A convincing performance by a young Lewes team saw them come away from Herne Bay with all three points and a welcome boost to the goal difference, reports Stuart Fuller.
Darren Freeman (see his reaction below) made just one change to the side that started in the victory at Corinthian Casuals on Saturday, with goal scorer Stephen Okoh replacing the injured Jamie Brotherton. Jack Dixon returned to the bench after suspension with Dean Bown joining him as he continued his rehabilitation from injury.
The visitors, fresh from their surprise last minute win Dorking Wanderers on Saturday, made one significant change with Toby Wood replacing Jack Delo in goal after the first choice keeper was injured in the warm-up. However it was the Lewes keeper Adria Munoz-Fernandez who was the talk of the crowd after 5 minutes when he saved a Pullman penalty, conceded by Alex Malins, then got up and saved the rebound superbly.
On a wide pitch it was the visitors who looked to stretch the play although their biggest threat came from the huge throws delivered by Sanders and Sayer, dealt with comfortably in the first half by Harrington and Malins.
Despite the home side’s direct approach it was the Rooks who took the lead in the 34th minute when Coppola smartly controlled a long ball from the back and slotted a perfect through ball to Stephen Okoh who pushed it under the keeper. The goal rattled the home side and three players went into the book in a short space of time for wild lunges on Lewes players.
On the stroke of half-time Okoh had his second when a fortuitous deflection from a Kaja run took the ball into the path of Stephen Okoh and he lifted the ball over the keeper.
Thirty seconds into the second half and Lewes were handed a penalty when Charlie Coppola and the Herne Bay keeper both went for a loose ball and the referee pointed to the spot. Unsurprisingly the home side were incensed by the decision which looked no more than a 50/50 ball. Okoh calmly slotted the penalty home for his hatrick, whilst keeper Wood was booked for his protests.
Five minutes later and Lewes had the ball in the net again when Coppola neatly finished but was harshly judged to be offside when it appeared Kaja was the infringing player. But the Rooks only had to wait a few minutes to get a fourth when Brinkhurst flew down the outside, crossed superbly and Egli Kaja controlled it and smashed it home in one fluid movement.
With fifteen minutes to play a superb cross-field ball from Jack Dixon played in Kaja and he raced clear but he pulled his shot wide. The Rooks were forced to finish the game with ten men as Matthew George pulled up and with all substitutes used Charlie Coppola was forced to play in an unusual position at left back.
Despite the scoreline, Adria pulled off two superb saves in the last few minutes to keep the Lewes goal intact whilst at the other end a smart move between Dixon and Brown teed up Gus Sow but he blazed over from 12 yards.
With the game entering injury time the Rooks back line was finally breached when Sanders got in front of the Lewes keeper to head home from a corner. It was too little too late for the hope side who were left to rue the penalty miss early in the game which could have changed events drastically.
The Rooks don’t have to wait too long to take on Herne Bay again as they visit the Pan on Saturday, kick off 3pm.
Herne Bay: Wood, Turner, Sayer (Quinn – 45 mins), Elliott, Graham, Sanders, Woollcott, Williams, Lovell, Pullman (Turner – 69 mins), Hassan (Kane – 58 mins)
Subs: Eastwood, Delo
Booked: Sanders, Williams, Hassan, Wood
Lewes: Munoz-Fernandez, Brinkhurst, George, Harrington, Cotton, Malins, Kaja, Conlon (Sow – 56 mins), Okoh (Bown – 67 mins) , Hammond (Dixon – 50 mins), Coppola
Subs: Whitmore, Stewart-Hunter
Booked: Brinkhurst, Cotton
Referee: Gerry Heron