An abject display saw Lewes deservedly crash out of the FA Cup on a disappointing afternoon in Essex reports Tom Harper.
The Rooks started the game in encouraging fashion though, as Terry Dodd flicked the ball just over the crossbar and onto the roof of the net after controlling an Elliott Romain knock-down. The next 20 minutes or so passed by without incident, as Lewes looked relatively solid at the back but were unable to trouble a well-organised Witham Town side who have made a steady start to the campaign following their promotion from Ryman North last season.
The hosts continued this start by taking the lead just before the half-hour mark through the impressive Danny Emmanuel, as he got on the end of a low left-wing cross from Kurt Smith to divert the ball across Rikki Banks and into the bottom corner after Lewes had momentarily switched off. It went from bad to worse for Lewes six minutes before half-time, as Steve Brinkhurst was correctly adjudged to have tripped Smith in the penalty area, leaving James Stevens to convert the spot-kick and double the host’s lead.
The Rooks were handed a route back into the game right on the stroke of half-time however, as referee Nolan Wilde surprised everyone in the ground by pointing to the spot following an innocuous looking challenge in the Witham area at a free-kick. Lewes were not going to pass up this opportunity, with Jack Dixon comfortably dispatching the penalty to bring the Rooks back into the game.
The management team made their thoughts on the first-half display known to the players during the break, with the team returning to the pitch several minutes before Witham and Jack Walder making his return from injury, as he replaced James Stinson at the heart of the defence. There was nothing the management could do about Witham’s third goal, as Brinkhurst ignored a shout from Banks to allow a long ball to run through to him, sending a pass-back past his goalkeeper and leaving Tom Wraight with the easiest of finishes into the empty net just seven minutes into the second half.
The hosts were now playing with confidence and should have increased their lead minutes later, as Emmanuel was just unable to supply the finishing touch to a deflected Smith cross-shot at the far post. Despite this, Witham potentially made things difficult for themselves with just under half an hour left to play as Ryan Blackman was shown a second yellow card.
If anything, it got easier for the hosts and they increased their lead within a minute of being reduced to ten men. Wraight was the scorer, sending a fine low effort from the left-hand side of the penalty area across Banks and into the bottom corner after a purposeful run from Emmanuel.
Lewes were struggling to keep any possession, but still nearly pulled a goal back as substitute Luke Blewden saw a close-range effort well saved by Martyn Guest before Ross Treleaven somehow missed the target with his follow-up effort. The hosts continued to look dangerous going forward and could have gone further ahead when Emmanuel went on a run which took him past several Rooks players before seeing his powerful effort well saved by Banks.
Lewes had the final say in the last minute, as Blewden finished a Fraser Logan cut-back from close-range after a clever through-ball from Dodd to ensure the score-line looked a bit less one-sided. This was a disappointing display from Lewes, who never looked like getting back into the game after going behind in the first half.
The Rooks will hope to put this behind them when they face Peacehaven in the Ryman Premier at the Pan on Wednesday, kick-off at 7.45pm.
Witham Town: Guest, Mead, Watson, Stopher, P. King, Blackman, Emmanuel (Charles 82), Stevens, Smith (Murfet 87), Godbold, Wraight (Pedulu 87).
Unused Subs: Townrow, Robinson, B. King.
Sent off: Blackman.
Lewes: Banks, Brinkhurst, Cole, Rowe, Logan, Stinson (Walder 46), Wheeler (Blewden 64), Dixon, Dodd, Muggeridge (Treleaven 56), Romain.
Unused Subs: Crabb, Fergany, MetayerÂ, Lightwood.
Booked: Banks, Cole, Rowe.
Referee: Nolan Wilde