Rooks sparkle on Bonfire-themed day

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Lewes bounced back to winning form with a deserved win over Wingate & Finchley side this (Saturday) afternoon.

Goals from Anthony Thomas (2) and Chris Breach were enough to see the Rooks home to their first league win since August 27, with veteran striker Rocky Baptiste scoring for visitors.

The three points also saw the Rooks jump from 17th in the table to a much healthier-looking mid-table 12th, leapfrogging their North London opponents in the process.

Wingate & Finchley were said to be missing eight first team regulars going into this game. However, Lewes weren’t exactly at full strength either: Jay Conroy was absent with the ’flu while a number of other Rooks players were either playing through the after-effects of the virus, or on the bench due to suffering illness during the week.

Meanwhile, Ben Godfrey was serving a suspension for his sending off against Kingstonian of two weeks’ previously and Tuesday’s impressive debuant against Hastings United, Bruno Fati, was back in Italy for the weekend.

The first decent Lewes move came in the 17th minute, when good build-up play from back to front (and from left to right) involving Steve Robinson, keeper Kieron Thorp, Lewis Hamilton and Max Howell led to Steve Brinkhurst bursting past his man and crossing to the far post, where an unfortunate touch took the ball away from the Rooks players lining up beyond the far stick to turn the ball in.

A smart Layton Shaaf volley from the edge of the box a few minutes later flashed only just wide of the post, momentarily rousing the home fans among the 502 crowd.

Ryan Gardiner pulled a shot badly wide from 20 yards on 35 minutes after a long ball was carelessly allowed to drop by the Lewes defence.

But seconds later the Rooks were ahead when, from a superb Lee Cooper cross from the right, striker Thomas stooped magnificently to redirect a bullet header past Bobby Smith from six yards out.

There was a comical hold-up just before half time when referee John Pike took an age to sort out a fracas between the two sides in the middle of the park. Lewis Hamilton and Jack Walder were booked for Lewes while John Bonngin was cautioned for the Blues.

The Rooks doubled their advantage exactly four minutes and five seconds into the second half, when a surging break down the Lewes left saw Max Howell send in a lovely early cross for Thomas to score his second of the game.

The Lewes striker had only the visiting keeper to beat but still did well to get over an awkwardly-bouncing ball and keep the shot down.

Howell himself could have made it 3-0 six minutes later but pulled a volley from beyond the far wide of Smith’s near upright following a great run and cross from Steve Brinkhurst down the Lewes right.

Veteran striker Rocky Baptiste came on for Wingate & Finchley on 69 minutes – and within a minute had pulled one back for the visitors.

A free kick down the hosts right, midway between the penalty box and halfway line, was allowed to go all the way through to keeper Kieron Thorp. He could only parry the ball down in front of him, where the much-travelled veteran was on hand to bundle the ball over the line.

But any fears of a late capitulation were eased six minutes later, and it was another scrambled goal from another free kick. This time is was Breach who forced the ball into the net, from a cleverly-taken dead ball from Karl Beckford.

That 76th minute calmer was enough to ensure the hosts made it through to the final whistle with the minimum of anxiety. The performance was widely received as being the Rooks’ best of the season so far, and the excellent performances of the young, local players such as Steve Brinkhurst, Layton Schaaf and Max Howell only accentuated the positive feelings around the Pan.

On the club’s Bonfire-themed day, it would only be fitting if this was the result that lit the blue touchpaper to Lewes’ season.

ROOKS: Thorp, Cooper, Hamilton, Walder (Crabb 60), Robinson, Breach, Brinkhurst, Schaaf, Thomas, Beckford, Howell (Kay 85).

SUBS: Wormull, Stubbings, Ozga.