Defeats to Wingate and Billericay are big setbacks to Lewes’ play-off hopes

It’s been a bad week for Lewes’ Isthmian premier play-off hopes, with two defeats in four days seeing them slip to 11th place, seven points off the top five.
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Lewes go to Hastings tomorrow looking for a recovery after two 3-0 reverses in the space of four days.

On Saturday Lewes suffered their third defeat in four games, falling to a disappointing 3-0 loss at Wingate & Finchley.

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Tony Russell made two changes to the side that lost 3-1 at home to Carshalton Athletic in their previous game, with Archie Tamplin and Ryan Gondoh replacing Marcus Sablier and Tommy Wood in the starting line-up. These changes saw Ola Ogunwamide play through the middle as a centre forward, as he had done in the latter stages of the Carshalton game.

Lewes battle in vain against Billericay | Picture: James BoyesLewes battle in vain against Billericay | Picture: James Boyes
Lewes battle in vain against Billericay | Picture: James Boyes

Ogunwamide could have given Lewes an early lead, as he saw his effort from a tight angle saved by Ben Goode in the Wingate goal. The Rooks continued to enjoy the better of the early chances, with Tamplin the next to call Goode into action after exchanging passes with Ogunwamide on the edge of the area.

The hosts were struggling to gain a foothold in the game, seeing Elliot Long shoot straight at Nathan Harvey with their first meaningful attempt at goal. Lewes continued to look the more likely scorers, Chris Whelpdale forcing a smart save from Goode, who then reacted well to keep out Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala’s effort on the rebound.

It was therefore against the run of play when Wingate took the lead on 34 minutes, Long beating Harvey with a low strike from the edge of the area. Long doubled his and Wingate’s tally barely a minute later, controlling an excellent cross from Ahmet Biler before firing a superb finish across Harvey and into the bottom corner.

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He could even have completed his hat-trick before the break, dragging his shot wide after a long ball forward had caused havoc in the Lewes defence. Wingate were well on top at the start of the second half and made it 3-0 on 50 minutes, as a powerful long-range strike from Ruben Carvalho beat Harvey.

Lewes were unable to find a route back into the game as the second half progressed, with the hosts looking more like adding to their lead if anything, as Alexander Solomon vollied a Carvalho corner just over the bar at the near post. The closest the Rooks came to a late consolation saw Goode bravely save at the feet of Ogunwamide after a Whelpdale knockdown.

On Tuesday night, ten-man Lewes fell to a third consecutive defeat on a rainy, windy night at the Pan, losing 3-0 to promotion-chasing Billericay Town.

Tony Russell made two changes to the side that lost 3-0 at Wingate & Finchley in their previous game, with Ayo Olukoga and Kieran Murtagh replacing Marcus Sablier and Ola Ogunwamide in the starting line-up. These tweaks to the team saw Murtagh start up front and Olukoga slot into midfield, with Chris Whelpdale moving further forward to support Murtagh.

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The first chance of the game fell to the visitors, who saw Alfie Cerulli drag his effort wide of the far post after good build-up play down the left. Lewes responded to this by enjoying the better of the next 20 minutes, moving the ball well without creating anything clear-cut.

Billericay took the lead in bizarre circumstances on 27 minutes, as a mis-hit Jake Elliott pass-back from almost on the touchline flew past Nathan Harvey and into the bottom corner to stun everyone in the crowd. Lewes nearly equalised immediately, a ball in from the right only being cleared as far as Ryan Gondoh, whose powerful strike was deflected just over the bar.

The conditions were making it tough for both teams, but Billericay began to take control towards the end of the half, with Ruben Soares narrowly missing the target, before teeing up Ollie Peters to shoot wide with only Harvey to beat. The visitors doubled their lead two minutes before the break, Frankie Merrifield latching onto a through-ball and slotting the ball past Harvey.

Lewes’ task was made even more difficult on the stroke of half-time, as Ronnie Vint was shown a straight red card for a rash challenge on Soares, who was booked himself for his part in the altercation that followed. Billericay looked to make the most of their numerical advantage within minutes of the restart, Cerulli drawing a superb save from Harvey with a powerful strike from inside the area. To their credit, Lewes stayed in the game and did their best to pull a goal back, a Sanchez Ming cut-back from the right going just behind Murtagh and Whelpdale.

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The better chances unsurprisingly fell to the visitors though, with Harvey called into action again to deny Merrifield. There was nothing he could do to prevent Adam Leathers making it 3-0 on the hour, his well-struck volley taking a deflection on its way past the keeper and into the back of the net.

The Rooks continued to battle in the dismal conditions, with Whelpdale seeing a goal-bound effort blocked by Matt Johnson and substitute Marcus Sablier’s deflected strike going just wide of the near post. Billericay could have added to their lead late on, a Cerulli piledriver from the edge of the area squirming under Harvey and going just wide, before Leathers sent a shot into the side-netting.