The Only Way is Sussex...?! The Only Way is the Pan!

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A STAR of one of the most popular reality television shows to hit British screens in recent years is set to pay a visit to the town on Sunday when a former Lewes FC player brings his Essex United team to take on the Rooks at the Dripping Pan.

Mark Wright is a popular figure in the so-called ‘scripted reality’ show The Only Way is Essex.

But he is as familiar with the football pitch as he is the television cameras as he spent a brief time as a player under Steve King at the Dripping Pan five to six years ago.

The visit of his Essex United side marks a return to senior football to Mountfield Road on Sunday with an exciting double header.

Kicking off the afternoon’s entertainment are the Lewes Ladies team, who entertain Southampton Saints in a game which kicks off at 12 noon.

The Ladies enjoyed a successful 2010-11 campaign, finishing third in the Ladies Combination League South East Division and were crowned champions of Sussex, winning the Sussex Womens Challenge Cup with a 2-0 victory over Chichester City.

The men then take centre stage at 2.30pm when Steve King’s men take on Essex United. Essex United are owned and player/managed by Mark Wright, star of cult TV show The Only Way Is Essex. Mark spent two months on loan with Lewes during 2005-06. Essex United will provide a competitive game in the Rooks’ build-up to the Ryman League Premier Division campaign, with their squad including players that have featured in the Football League and Conference.

King is looking forward to taking on his former charge, saying: “This will be a great day for the club on a number of levels.

“I’m delighted to share the bill with the ladies team as it will be a great opportunity for them to showcase their talents to a wider audience. The Essex game will be competitive, which is what we will need at this stage of pre season, and it will also bring new visitors to the Pan, who we can hopefully convert to Lewes Fans and owners of the future.”

Mark said: “I’m looking forward to returning to the first Non League club that I played for, spending an enjoyable couple of months under Kingy. The supporters always made me feel very welcome during my time at the Pan.

Entry to this double header for the day is £8 adults, £4 Concessions and £2 under 16s.

Rooks boss King reiterated that results were not the important thing in pre-season friendlies after the Rooks lost 1-0 away to Worthing on Saturday. The only goal of that game came midway through the first half when a mix-up between trialists, goalkeeper Mark Zawadski and right back Dylan Merchant allowed Steve Davies to nip in and score, although the Rebels man injured himself in the process and had to go off immediately after.

The Rooks had a couple of early chances to take the lead, most notably from a Paul Booth header, but the new signings up front for Lewes generally failed to spark – other than second half substitute Warren McBean, who looked a class apart in the second half.

However, it was another trialist, former Rook Chamal Fenelon, who had one of the best chances of an equaliser late on when his shot hit the keeper’s legs. King refused to blame Merchant for the goal when he said: “I said last week (following the victory over St Neots) that it wasn’t about the result. Friendlies throw up all kinds of results. It was a mistake for the goal.

“We should have been 2-0 up in the first 10 minutes and our right back’s under 18.

“He’s only a young kid; he should have got better communication from the keeper, he should have told him “away” and not ‘home’?”

King added: “I was disappointed with the front boys today. With all the quality they have got they should have done more.”

But the Lewes boss was full of praise for his captain at the heart of the Lewes defence, Steve Robinson. “He was immense,” he said.

“The way he brought the ball out of defence was superb. He was the best player on the pitch today.”