Lewes won their last game of the season on Saturday, but it still wasn’t enough to get into the play-offs as rivals Wealdstone and Bury Town also both won.
The Rooks needed to beat Harrow Borough and hope either of the two teams they could still overtake in the play-off zone – Wealdstone or Bury Town – lost.
Simon Wormull’s men did their bit by overpowering Harrow Borough 4-2, despite going behind as early as the second minute through a Jon Jo Bates goal.
But it was probably a sign it wasn’t going to be Rooks’ day, when news came through that Wealdstone had taken the lead against Concord Rangers after just 23 seconds through Alex Dyer – in fact, before Lewes had even kicked off.
But Wormull’s men rallied to lead through first half goals from Paul Booth and Chris Breach – and when defender Steve King levelled for Concord at Wealdstone, the dream of a play-off place was still on going into the half-time interval.
But despite stretching their lead to 4-1 after the break through Nathan Crabb and a Booth penalty, the bumper crowd of over 1,000 at the Pan were quietened by news that goal machine Richard Jolly had put the Stones back in the lead against Concord. It was his 48th goal of the season. Scott Fitzgerald then added a third for Wealdstone to really end any Lewes dreams of returning to the Blue Square Bet South at the first attempt.
Danny Leech’s late consolation for Harrow changed nothing in the final equation.
Bury Town, meanwhile, cruised to a facile 7-1 victory over a Tooting and Mitcham side that had seemingly surrendered long before the season’s end. The already-relegated south London outfit have been reported to be fielding half a dozen youth players in recent games – and even a former Football League striker in goal. That would perhaps explain why they went into Saturday’s game having conceded 11 goals in their previous two games – both against Lewes’ play-off rivals (0-6 against Wealdstone and 0-5 v Hendon).
So it was no surprise to see them on the wrong end of a heavy beating again. John Sands and Billy Clark both hit hat-tricks for the Suffolk outfit to ensure the county had two representatives in the end of season play-offs.
Indeed, they could both meet in the play-off final as Wednesday’s semis are AFC Hornchurch v Bury Town and Lowestoft Town v Wealdstone. Play-offs in the Ryman League are one-legged affairs with the team finishing higher in the table playing at home.
Despite the disappointment of missing out on a play-off place, it wasn’t all doom and gloom at an admittedly cold, wet and windy Dripping Pan. The four-figure crowd had the chance to applaud the all-conquering Lewes Ladies team at half-time and also hail the supporters’ player of the year, captain Steve Robinson, and manager’s player of the year, Matt Somner.
Many will be looking forward to next season already, with a mouth-watering pre-season friendly against Brighton and Hove Albion to come beforehand, in July.