WHILE the First Team stays very much in contention for a place in the Ryman Premier play-offs, Lewes U18s have been blazing their own trail of success in the Ryman Youth League Southern Division.
Who will claim the title is now all down to just three teams: Burgess Hill, the Young Rooks and Whitehawk.
Monday night at the Dripping Pan furnished a big clue as to who the top two will be, when Lewes were the winners of a hard-fought 2-1 tussle with Whitehawk.
The result puts Lewes into joint top place with Burgess Hill on 31 points – although the Hillians have a game in hand and a very slight advantage in goal difference of one goal.
Whitehawk, meanwhile, are two points behind on 29, having played the same number of games as Lewes (14).
What makes this battle royal so intriguing is the fact that Whitehawk and Burgess Hill meet on Wednesday April 11, the same night that Lewes take on lowly Bognor Regis at the Pan.
Mother of all showdowns
For the Young Rooks this will be their penultimate game of the season.
Take nothing for granted but if Whitehawk take the scalp of Burgess Hill and Lewes do the business over Bognor, then we are set up for the mother of all last game-of-the-season-showdowns – on Monday, April 16, when the Young Rooks make the short journey to Burgess Hill for a game likely to decide who will be the champions.
Back to Monday night; Layton Schaaf kept up his prolific season with a goal in the 32nd minute to reward a swift Lewes break.
Unfortunately their lead only lasted seven minutes before Whitehawk brought the score level, when the ball took a cruel deflection off Charlie Franks and into the Lewes net.
The second half continued in end-to-end fashion, although the Young Rooks looked the most likely to score.
Lewes captain Josh Phillips settled matters nine minutes from time when he launched himself into the only area of space in the middle of an otherwise crowded box to head home Max Howell’s perfectly-weighted corner kick.
Josh Grimstone in the Lewes goal had some work to do late on but Phillips’ excellent effort was enough to cap a splendid night for the Young Rooks.
Lewes FC Chairman Steve Ibbitson watched the game. Afterwards he told me: “The Under 18s have had a great year with Solly March, Bayan Fenwick, Max Howell, Charlie Leach, Leighton Schaaf and Josh Phillips all featuring for the First Team.
“Despite losing Solly to Brighton and Bayan to Crystal Palace, manager Nick Brown and the lads have set up a fantastic climax to the season. Their last home game (on Wednesday, April 11) is a ‘must win’ match against Bognor, and it would be just reward for everyone’s hard work to see a big crowd at the Pan to give the lads a cheer. Let’s hope we see them set up that decider at Burgess Hill on 16th April.”
It’s been very pleasing to see how Lewes FC have invited various charities to feature for free on the team shirts over the past couple of seasons.
Tomorrow’s game against Hendon at the Dripping Pan is being dedicated to Maggie’s, a charity set up to help anyone affected by cancer.
They do this chiefly through their nationwide network of Maggie’s Centres. These are places where people are warmly welcomed whether they have just been diagnosed with cancer or are having treatment.
They also welcome family and friends as Maggie’s recognises that those who love and look after someone with cancer can feel just as frightened, vulnerable and uncertain.
Everything Maggie’s provides is free of charge and visitors can access their support for as long as they need it.
Maggie’s people will be at the Dripping Pan tomorrow with literature explaining the work of the charity.
There will also be opportunities to donate money to help Maggie’s maintain their existing 14 Centres and fund more in the future.
Please help if you can.