With two saves in the penalty shoot-out, goalkeeper Lewis Carey was the hero of a gripping FA Cup showdown at the Dripping Pan on Wednesday night.
After 120 minutes of normal time and extra time, Lewes and Farnborough were locked at 1-1. On to the spot kicks, then, and after one successful penalty apiece, Carey stood up strong to beat away the kicks of Kurtis Cumberbatch and Luke King. Meanwhile Luke Blewden and Leon Redwood had converted, leaving Nico Cotton to send Lewes into the next round.
“Actually I was a little bit miffed,” revealed a modest Carey afterwards. “I was down to take our fifth penalty, but I wasn’t needed so I missed my moment of glory!”
In truth, this was a team performance and a terrific effort by Darren Freeman’s men, earning the club £6,000 in prize money and a trip to Kings Langley, of the Southern League Premier, in the next round.
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“With our chances, we probably should have killed it off without the penalties,” reflected boss Freeman afterwards. “These were two well matched sides and it was always going to be tight. You always want to play pure football, but on occasions like this it is more about doing the gritty stuff. I’m delighted that the players got their reward.”
Saturday’s meeting had finished 2-2, and there was very little between the sides when battle resumed. Rooks had slightly the better of the first half, but they took until 37 minutes to make their dominance pay, Jonte Smith smartly beating keeper CJ Fearn to Ronnie Conlon’s fizzing low cross.
By then, chances aplenty had gone begging at both ends, in an entertaining and high-paced encounter that lurched to and fro. The 1-0 half-time scoreline never felt decisive, and within seconds of the restart Conlon was brilliantly denied a second goal by the fingertips of Fearn – himself a late stand-in for Farnborough’s regular keeper who had been delayed by work commitments and traffic.
But the balance of power was shifting as the second half progressed, and after some breathlessly tight escapes, the home defence was finally breached on 69 minutes, the towering Connor Calcutt heading in a huge diagonal cross from the left. The visitors were looking primed for the kill, but Rooks defended stoutly. Into the extra half-hour, they wrenched back control and Jonte Smith looked certain clinch the tie with a minute left – but he put his shot wide from just five yards out.
And so to the tension, the drama and the sudden death from twelve yards. The evening had begun rather romantically, with a warm setting sun turning the chalkface beyond Cliffe to a stunning, glowing pink. But when it finished, under the Pan’s bright and unforgiving lights, that fabled romance of the FA Cup had drained players and spectators alike.
For Farnborough, there was only exhaustion laced with pain. For the triumphant Rooks, exhaustion was swept away in elation. Bring on the next round….
Lewes: Carey, Coppola (Blewden 27), Chappell,Freeman, Brinkhurst, Conlon (Cotton 102), Redwood, Dome-Bemwin, Smith, Hammond, Lawson.
Referee: Ian Crittenden Att: a richly entertained 397
Lewes MoM: Stacey Freeman