LEWES overturned a two-goal deficit to beat a strong St Neots Town 3-2 in their first pre-season game on Saturday.
Two St Neots Town goals in a seven-minute spell midway through the first half had the handful of travelling Rooks fans behind the goal contemplating a defeat in Steve King’s first outing as Lewes boss second time around.
But some impressive displays from a couple of Rooks new boys saw the decent Southern Division One Central outfit overhauled.
Nic Ciardini, who was with Lewes boss King at Farnborough last season, gave Lewes fans a vision of life without local favourite David Wheeler on the wing, as he scored one cracker and made another in a superb all-round display at the Hunts Post Community Stadium.
Lewes pulled a goal back just before half time when Ciardini took on the full back, cut inside and then fired home an unstoppable shot off the underside of the crossbar.
It was 2-2 after the break when striker Ian Draycott, signed by King from Bedford over the summer, followed up to tap home when the St Neots keeper failed to hold on to a shot. And the winner came a few minutes later when man of the match Ciardini once again beat his man and got to the byline, and his pin-point cross found the forhead of Draycott who also once again made no mistake.
“It was a decent workout from our point of view,” said King.
“It was a game against a very good side that will their league next season. They’ve got a front two that scored 102 goals between them,
“I don’t look too deeply into pre-season but it’s just nice to see how things work out (with all the new players together). It was the first game with everyone together and they showed character (two come from two goals down to win).”
He praised winger Ciardini, saying: “He will be a fans favourite, there’s no two ways about that. He’s two-footed, powerful and adaptable. And what he will give you, more than David Wheeler, is goals. There’s no doubt he will get double figures this year.”
And of striker Ian Draycott, he said: He’s what it says on the tin. He will score goals; he’s a fox in the box, simple as that.”
There were other new faces in the Lewes line-up, not least former Crawley Town forward Michael Malcolm.
The former Farnborough player is now a highly sought-after commodity in non-league football having become a free agent in the summer, and King made no secret in his desire to sign the player for the approaching season.
He said: “I want him badly. I’m trying to agree a deal with him. He’s the one I’ve been chasing all summer.
“The edge I have got (on other teams looking to sign him) is that he played for me last year. I know the boy.”
Other new faces to Rooks fans on Saturday, playing as trialists, included Ringmer player Joe Dryer and former Horsham goalkeeper Mark Zawadski. And also Dominic Stirling, who became the latest addition to the Rooks new-look side last weekend.
The defender, who played against St Neots, joins from Staines having made 23 appearances for the Blue Square Bet South side. Stirling started out with Wimbledon, appearing briefly for Wealdstone before enjoying 75 appearances in two seasons at Hayes.
He subsequently moved to Aldershot in July 2002, playing 36 times including the Conference Play-Off Final against Shrewsbury in 2004.
Canvey Island made him their first signing on reaching the Conference Premier in 2004, where he stayed for two seasons and 54 games before a move to Maidenhead in 2006.
Stirling made over 100 appearances at York Road, winning three Player of the Season awards before his short move to Staines in 2009.
The 35 year old also has international experience, having gained England ‘C’ recognition during his time at Hayes.
King said of him: “He’s very experienced and has had a very good non-league career. He’s still very quick and very good in the air.”
On the prospect of Stirling joining Steve Robinson at the heart of the Lewes defence, King said: “Those two together will complement each other nicely.”
Next up for Lewes is the local derby at Worthing tomorrow (Saturday).