Rooks keep play-off dreams alive with late Harding penalty at Concord Rangers

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A late Harry Harding penalty earned Simon Wormull’s men all three points in a typically tense end-of-season battle at Concord Rangers on Saturday.

Lewes were ahead twice thanks to goals scored at the very start of each half, by the excellent Nathan Crabb.

But hosts Concord equalised twice through goals from Kurt Robinson, in the 29th minute, and former Rook Karl Beckford – a superb long-range free kick on 73 minutes.

And just before the spot kick that kept the Rooks on course for an end-of-season play-off place The Beachboys had a golden double chance to end those dreams, when, on 84 minutes, Tony Stokes first saw a goalbound lob equisitely saved by Matt Ingram before firing the rebound against the post.

Lewes then went up the other end, where substitute Arron Hopkinson’s twist and turn in the Concord box saw him tangle and fall with Arthur Lee, prompting referee Lee Venamore to point to the spot.

The decision incensed home players who surrounded the official for a good minute or so, delaying Harding’s spot kick for a nervous few extra moments.

The young Lewes midfielder had not enjoyed a good game and, with the extra delay and importance of the kick, once would not have blamed him for a nervy spot kick. However, the 20-year-old former Reading player calmly curled the penalty strike high to goalkeeper Nicky Eyre’s top right hand corner, the shot perfectly placed and utterly unstoppable.

The Rooks held out through an unspecified length of added time to seal the three points that keep Lewes in the top five of the Ryman Premier. Lewes are in that fifth and final play-off berth, a point behind fourth-placed Bury and a point ahead of Wealdstone, who have a potentially crucial game in hand, away to Margate tomorrow (Tuesday) night, and will leapfrog Lewes with a win or a draw there.

But whatever happens, it will be all up for grabs on Saturday.

Wealdstone entertain Lewes’ weekend opponents Concord, while Bury travel to the relegated and seemingly keeper-less Tooting, and Lewes host Harrow, with all matches kicking off at 3pm.

BEACHBOYS: Eyre, Bowditch, Lee, Beckford, King, White, Robinson, Cowley ©, Harris (Stanley 85), Elmes, Stokes.

Unused Subs: Hahn, Knott, Miller, Dudley.

ROOKS: Ingram, Kamara, Hamilton, Somner, Robinson ©, Hustwick, Breach, Harding, Crabb (Billings 90), Booth (Hopkinson 63), Draycott (Howell 77).

UNused Subs: Leach, Wormull.

REF: Lee Venamore. ATT: 252.