Lewes came from behind to pick up a well-earned point against a dangerous Hampton & Richmond Borough today.
The Beavers have suffered something of a crisis since dropping from first in the Ryman Premier in October to mid-table.
But their line-up looks high on quality with many names and faces in the Hampton side that have come from higher division outfits or will be familiar to Lewes fans.
Ex-Rooks Malvin Kamara, Max Hustwick and Gary Holloway were all making returns to the Dripping Pan after featuring in the the Hampton starting line-up.
And the two new Beavers signings, Tony Taggart and Ryan Moss, both announced yesterday and joining from Blue Square South side Havant & Waterlooville started in their first XI and on the substitutes’ bench respectively.
Meanwhile, for Lewes midfielder Callum Dunne was forced to return to his role as emergency centre half in the absence of the flu-stricken Chris Breach, with player/boss Simon Wormull in at left back.
So the Rooks knew they were in for a tough encounter against a Hampton team and manager playing under the threat of serious sanction, following a Board of Directors’ statement last week demanding an immediate return to the form of earlier in the season.
The sides exhanged chances in the opening minutes. First Nathan Crabb fired just wide of the far post while at the other end James Simmons smacked a shot against the angle of the Lewes goal.
Then, on 13 minutes, Holloway nearly scored on his return to the Pan when his header from close range was cleared off the line following a Hampton corner on their right.
Three minutes later Rodney Chiweshe was forced to tip a Ben Godfrey shot over after Godfrey had been played in by Crabb down the Lewes right.
It was Lewes who took the lead, on 19 minutes, when a lovely passing move from the Rooks led to a melee in the Beavers box. There Steve Brinkhurst, with his back to goal, hooked a clever shot over his shoulder and into the net off the bottom of the crossbar.
But it was all square on the half hour mark when Wormull fouled Kamara in the box and referee Andrew Parker pointed to the spot. Charlie Moone made no mistake with his crisply-taken penalty, putting it low to Kieron Thorp’s right.
The visitors nearly took the lead just seconds later when James Simmons cracked a shot off the Lewes crossbar, the ball then being cleared away following a short but desperate scramble in the Lewes box.
But they did lead just before the break, and it from a beautifully crafted move. The ever-dangerous Simmons drove forward towards the edge of the Lewes box where he laid the ball off to Taggart out on the Hampton left. His early cross found Jo Turner arriving late at the far post, where the Hampton man powered in a stunning header that keeper Kieron Thorp could do nothing about.
Turner had a great chance to add to his and his side’s tally just after the break, but he blazed his shot over from the edge of the Lewes area.
And the visitors were made to pay when Lewes equalised on 63 minutes. It came from another lovely move in front of the Philcox Stand and this time by the home side. Layton Schaaf swept a sweet first time shot into Chiweshe’s bottom right hand corner after Walder had laid the ball off to him nicely under pressure just inside the Hampton box.
It was the last goal of the game and just rewards for a Lewes side that showed fortitude against a team expecting to find itself heading quickly back up the table throughout the rest of the season.
LEWES: Thorp, Dollery, Wormull (Hamilton 57), Walder (c), Dunne, Donaghey, Godfrey, Schaaf (Stubbings 73), Crabb, Beckford, Brinkhurst.
SUBS IN FULL: Hamilton, Kay, Stubbings, Ozga, Kelvin Brown.
BOOKED: Walder 36.
HAMPTON: Rodney Chiwese, Anson Cousins, Max Hustwick, Darren Powell (c), Mo Harkin, Jo Turner, Gary Holloway, Charlie Moone (Ryan Moss 64), James Simmons (Mo Battamer 78), Tony Taggart.
SUBS IN FULL: Karle Carder, Alan Bray, Dean Inman, Mo Bettamer, Ryan Moss.
REFEREE: Andrew Parker. ATTENDANCE: 558.