Lewes produced one of their best team performances of the season to grab all three points against play-off candidates Corinthian Casuals, reports Stuart Fuller.
Manager Darren Freeman was forced into changing the side that lost on Monday to Horsham with Stacey Freeman missing due to injury and Jonté Smith falling victim to tonsillitis. Jack Dixon was serving the second of his two match suspension but there was good news in the form of the return of Lloyd Cotton.
Despite their impressive home record, Lewes took the game to the hosts, taking advantage of their excellent playing surface to spread the ball wide and try to get in behind the full-backs. The plan worked with The Rooks taking the lead in the 7th minute when Jamie Brotherton crossed low from the right and Charlie Coppola stabbed the ball in from close range.
Three minutes later as the Rooks attacked again, Brotherton was caught late by centre-back Dudley as he pushed the ball behind the Corinthian Casuals defence. The Rooks play-maker sustained a nasty gash above his knee in the challenge which saw him depart on a stretcher and off to hospital for stitches. Sub Stephen Okoh, returning from a knee injury himself wasted no time in making an impact on the game when he doubled the Lewes lead having been on the field for less than five minutes, Egli Kaja providing the assist this time from the right.
The goal spurred the home side into action and they started to put pressure on the Lewes goal. Dangerman Okojie could only look on in disbelief as his shot from a few yards out was well saved by Munoz-Fernandez then minutes later James Hammond was in the right place at the right time to clear off the line as Bettache’s effort finally beat the Lewes keeper. Half-time and Lewes held the advantage if not the upper-hand in possession.
The second half saw the hosts pick up the pace but the Lewes defence was rock solid, with bodies being thrown at every challenge. When they were beaten Munoz-Fernandez was at hand to save the day, making a superb stops from Murray and Okojie. At the other end Coppola almost scored a second when he robbed the Casuals full-back but smashed the ball into the side netting.
Lewes brought on Dean Bown for his long-overdue debut and he looked sharp, creating a chance in the final minute where he turned his marker inside out before forcing Bracken into a decent save.
Full-time was met with a mixture of joy and relief as Lewes took all three points that owed as much to the pre-match strategy of how to play against Corinthian Casuals on the break as it did to the excellent collective defensive performance.
The win means the Rooks finished the day just one point outside the play-off zone and head to Herne Bay on Tuesday night full of confidence.
Corinthian Casuals: Bracken, Spencer, Hodges, Dudley, Murray, Gallagher, Oldham (Byatt – 62 mins), Bettache, Okojie, Clarke (Maan – 71 mins), Uzon (Morgan – 81 mins)
Subs not used: Strange, Cheklit
Lewes: Munoz-Fernandez, Brinkhurst, George, Harrington, Cotton, Malins, Kaja, Conlon (Sow – 71 mins), Brotherton (Okoh – 11 mins (Bown- 84 mins)), Coppola
Subs not used: Kelly, Dramis
Referee: Rob Wainwright