TIM O’SHEA believes his Lewes side deserve immense credit for even being in the relegation scrap with five games of the season remaining.
When O’Shea was appointed in October the Rooks had only put four points on the board, so to be in with a shout of retaining their Blue Square South status at this stage of the campaign is an achievement in itself, he says.
Lewes’ hopes of avoiding the drop were given a timely boost with Saturday’s 1-0 win against fellow strugglers Maidenhead – leaving five more ‘cup finals’ to decide their future.
O’Shea remarked: “It was always going to be a survival season. It’s a case of coming in with four points from 12 games and we are now five games from the end of the season still in with a fighting chance of staying up. That in itself in an achievement and the boys deserve a lot of credit.”
The boss said Maidenhead’s surprise 4-3 win against Basingstoke in midweek was evidence of just how big their win on Saturday was.
“We won and kept a clean sheet against a side who went out and scored four in their next game.”
But O’Shea insists that although Lewes might have what appears to be an easier run in, it is anything but. “If the fixtures were earlier in the season maybe you could say yes. But the teams we play down with us are still trying to put points together to secure their future in the division too.”
In a hard-fought but scrappy affair at the Dripping Pan, the hosts earned themselves a vital three points thanks to a penalty scored deep into first half injury time by Gary Noel, after debutant (a 19-year-old deadline day loan signing from Lincoln) Andy Hutchinson was brought down by Mark Nisbet in the box.
Both sides tried hard to create chances but struggled to create any genuine goalscoring opportunities.
The Rooks’ first attempt came midway through the first half but David Wheeler’s header went straight at former Lewes keeper Steve Williams.
Another former Rook, Jefferson Louis, could have opened the scoring for the Magpies when he held off central defender Joe Dolan to shoot but his effort went over the bar, before Anthony Thomas struck wide for the visitors.
But it was the hosts who finished the stronger, culminating in the spot kick that would eventually separate the teams.
The second half was as disjointed as the first, with few moments in front of either goal. Louis again went close for Maidenhead while 21-year-old Nelson, another deadline day loan signing from Bournemouth, came close from a free kick.
Yet another deadline day loanee, Danny Buckle, in from Walton Casuals, spurned a final chance to score for Lewes, but the all-important points were Tim O’Shea’s men at the final whistle.
Josh Wills was O’Shea’s fourth signing on deadline day. The Sidley United man will provide cover for goalkeeper Chris Winterton.
Saturday’s win ensures Lewes are still very much in touch with the teams just above them in the league.
The Rooks (currently filling the final relegation place at 20th in the table) are now on 31 points from 37 games, although Bishop’s Stortford enjoyed a superb 3-0 away win at Hampton & Richmond on Tuesday night to raise them up from fourth bottom to sixth bottom, on 36 points from 37. Thurrock opened up some space for themselves in 18th with a 3-0 home win over Weston-super-Mare on Saturday.
Maidenhead, meanhile, now lie two points behind Lewes, although they have one game in hand on the Rooks. St Albans City now look doomed after their failed April Fools’ Day appeal against their 10-point deduction for financial irregularities sees them rock bottom on 20 points.
Lewes travel to Dorchester tomorrow (Saturday) to take on the other team in Blue Square Bet South with Magpies as their nickname.
The Dorset side are only four places above the Rooks in the league, but their last-gasp equaliser away to the faltering league leaders, Braintree Town, on Saturday sees them a relatively comfortable seven points clear of the drop zone with five games to play.
Lewes’ four remaining games after that are against 13th-placed Weston-super-Mare, away on Saturday April 16, ninth-placed Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday, April 23, a potentially crucial home game with Bishop’s Stortford on Easter Monday (April 25) and finally away to 17th-placed Boreham Wood in Saturday April 30.
AFC Uckfield’s first ever cup final ended in disappointment on Tuesday night when county league division one leaders Crawley Down lifted the Sussex RUR Cup following a 2-0 victory over second division outfit at Culver Road, Lancing.
Goals in each half from Nick Sullivan and Aaron Watson were enough to give the County League division one leaders their first major trophy.
The Oaks team though still have another cup final to look forward to – the Division Two Challenge Cup – and are on course for promotion to Division One.
In Division One on Tuesday night, Ringmer put any lingering thoughts from Saturday’s disastrous 1-0 defeat at Shoreham were quickly forgotten on as Blues reserve team player Robbie Frost, in only his second 1st team start shot into the bottom left of United’s net in the second minute of the game.
Tim Johnson then had a good shot palmed away by keeper Grant Fitzgerald who as it turned out was going to have a busy night.
More chances followed for Ringmer with Frost, Kieran Patel and Joe Dryer all going close, United on the other hand found it hard to break out of their own half to give them a chance at goal.
On the half hour a Dryer corner to the near post was headed in by Rene Milan for Ringmer’s second. A corner at the other end for United produced a looping shot that keeper Jake Buss did well to tip over the bar. Ringmer continued to dominate but the half ended at 2-0.
The second half saw Ringmer still hungry for goals, Ben Courtnage almost scoring after neatly chipping the keeper, Frost then paired up with fellow reserve player Courtnage a minute later who’s end shot went just over the bar. A few minutes later a bad clearance by Fitzgerald gifted Patel who made no mistake in putting away Ringmer’s third after five minutes. Then Blues scored again from the re-start, Frost on a mission careering through the defence to fire in past a diving Fitzgerald for Ringmer’s fourth. And four minutes later Frost almost claimed another when Courtnage’s free kick went close in, Fitzgerald however did well to claim the ball.
United fought on and did start to gain a bit of momentum but as before a strong Ringmer back line including a début appearance by another reserve player Ben Barnett at right back, mopped up any thought of getting through to Buss. Frost and Milan were exchanged for Aaron Philips and Marc Whiteman who seven minutes later scored himself with a brilliant chip over the onrushing Fitzgerald for the fifth and last goal of the night. It must be said Eastbourne United played with the spirit of the game, never gave up and played their football to the end, it hasn’t been a good season for them and we wish them well for the next.
Other Tuesday results: Hailsham won 1-0 at home to Wick and Uckfield Town drew 1-1 away to Rottingdean.