Come to the Christmas cracker at the Pan!

LEWES fans who have been starved of live home league action for well over a month have been urged not to risk missing a potential Christmas cracker at the Dripping Pan on Boxing Day, writes Brian Pollard.

A mixture of postponements due to bad weather and FA Trophy commitments elsewhere in the Blue Square Bet South means the Rooks haven’t had a home league match since the St Albans game on Saturday, November 13.

But Rooks supporters who nevertheless may feel tempted to stay in front of the television on Boxing Day (Sunday) instead of watching their team take on one of the division’s high-flyers – Ebbsfleet United – were handed a timely reminder of what happened the same time last year by Lewes FC director of communications Alex Leith. Speaking to the Sussex Express, Alex said: “Nobody who made that decision last year, and came down to the Dripping Pan on Boxing Day, regretted it.

“Lewes were second from bottom, and playing high-flying Dover, who were second top.

“The Kent side were two goals up in the first 15 minutes – then Lewes, amazingly, scored six. It was, without a doubt, the best Christmas present I got – I was grinning from ear to ear for days afterwards.”

He added that alrhough it was difficult to judge what the attendance would be, he was hoping a bumper crowd would turn out to cheer on the team, currently lying one place above the BSBS relegation places.

“We’re hoping that Lewes’ 12th man – the crowd – will be equally keen to get into action again. It’s very difficult to ‘read’ how big the crowd will be, but we’re hoping that it’ll be well above average – which this season would mean a four-figure number.

“So we’re calling on everybody who supports the club to make an extra effort to bring friends and family along. It’s pertinent here to remind everyone that kids under 16 get in absolutely free. And watching Lewes at the Dripping Pan is a hell of a lot more fun than playing Pictionary, ringing up far-flung relatives or watching another re-run of the Great Escape. Let’s face it, however many times you watch it, Steve McQueen isn’t ever going to get over that fence.

As the Sussex Express went to press, the Dripping Pan pitch was covered in a thin blanket of snow.

The game can’t be played without this blanket being lifted, and if it hasn’t melted by Sunday, the usual suspects will be out there on Boxing Day morning, shovelling the snow onto the sidelines. Many hands make light work, and Alex said he was hoping a good number of fans would turn out to help, if necessary.

If you would like to be part of this effort, call David Arnold, who is co-ordinating the project, on 07845 954 805 or 01273 478513 to check on times and details. Please bring your own shovels, outdoor brushes, wheelbarrows etc. Refreshments will be available to help fuel Operation ‘Dig For Victory’.

Rooks boss Tim O’Shea said he was relishing the chance to get back into competitive action after overseeing only one game (a friendly against Margate) since November 27 – a 3-1 away defeat to Thurrock in the FA Trophy.

He said, “It seems an eternity since we played a league game. It’s been very frustrating but the forecast seems to be positive.

The area of the pitch in the shadow of the Rookery has been covered for over a week in an attempt to prevent it from freezing, as the slow thaw continues.

“They have partial action against the frost by covering the stand side of the pitch,” said O’Shea.

“If there is a frost seems to hit that area more than anywhere else.”

Looking ahead to Boxing Day the Rooks boss said: “Ebbsfleet are a very strong side; they’ll be in the (promotion) mix at the end of the season. They’re a strong side very mobile and organised. The manager has done a very good job with them.

“It will be a very stern test. But if we can reproduce the levels of performance we had against St Albans and Weston away we can certainly give them a very good game.”

Seventh-placed Ebbsfleet have a excellent away record in the league this season, winning five and losing none of the games played on their travels. Two days after the Ebbsfleet game, Lewes themselves are on the road when they travel east to take on fifth-placed Dover Athletic (Tuesday, December 28; both games KO 3pm).

And while Dover are equally formidable away as Ebbsfleet (six wins in seven) their form at the Crabble Athletic ground isn’t quite so impressive with only two wins from eight.

But O’Shea is wary of such stats, saying: “These teams are up there for a reason. They’re consistently good in every match.”

Jermaine Wright is suspended for the Boxing Day game but Lewis Hamilton’s suspension isn’t due to kick in until the New Year.

Former Charlton Athletic midfielder Jordan Anderson has been training with the Lewes first team while O’Shea revealed he was hopeful of adding to the squad by signing a defender in time for Boxing Day.