A disappointing performance saw Lewes fall to a heavy defeat against Harrow, who showed a clinical edge in the final third that was missing for the Rooks on a frustrating afternoon at Earlsmead reports Tom Harper.
Darren Freeman made four changes to the side that had been knocked out of the FA Trophy at Hampton & Richmond Borough in the week, with Gary Charman and Richard Pacquette being handed their debuts in place of Alex Malins and Alex Laing. The other changes saw Junior Kaffo and Nic Ciardini replace Ronnie Conlon and Robin Deen in the starting line-up.
The Rooks had the better of the opening stages and could have taken the lead early on, as Henry Muggeridge exchanged passes with Pacquette and evaded two Harrow defenders before seeing his effort pushed round the post by Connor Hudnott.
It was therefore slightly against the run of play when Harrow took the lead after 23 minutes through Marc Charles-Smith, who latched onto a quickly taken free-kick by Michael Bryan and lifted the ball over Chris Winterton from close range. Harrow enjoyed plenty of possession for the remainder of the half, and always looked capable of causing the Lewes defence problems with their pace and strength in the final third. They should have doubled their lead at the end of a sustained period of pressure, with Charman heading a Spencer McCall effort clear when it seemed destined for the back of the net.
The hosts were able to double their lead five minutes before the break, as the ball was worked out to the right to Bryan, who had far too much time and space to fire a low effort across Winterton and into the bottom corner.
Lewes saw more of the ball during the opening stages of the second half, but were unable to test an organised Harrow back four.
The Rooks were nearly handed a slightly fortunate route back into the game with just over 20 minutes left though, as a good move down the left ended with a Yasin Ben El-Mhanni shot that was heading wide being cleared against his own post by a covering defender.
The hosts made the most of this after 70 minutes by increasing their lead, with Bryan going on a purposeful run down the right and cutting the ball back from on the by-line for Josh Webb to finish from close range. Harrow added a fourth goal five minutes later, as Charles-Smith capitalised on a lapse in concentration from Steve Brinkhurst to run through and finish past Winterton to double his tally for the afternoon. Despite the game being over as a contest by this stage, the Rooks continued to work hard and found the consolation goal their performance had arguably deserved.
Laing was the scorer, capping an impressive substitute appearance by latching onto a weak back-pass and rounding Hudnott before finishing into an almost empty net despite the best efforts of a covering defender. The Rooks continued to press for another goal in the closing stages, with Ben El-Mhanni going close twice and both Stacey Freeman and Laing both heading wide from corners. Lewes were unable to score again though, and were left to reflect on a disappointing away defeat following some very encouraging performances in recent weeks.
The Rooks will hope to get this defeat out of their system when they travel to Hailsham Town in the second round of the Sussex Senior Cup on Tuesday, kick-off at 7.30pm.
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