STEVE KING declared himself unhappy with his team’s performance despite Lewes coming back from two goals down – and nearly snatching a dramatic injury time winner – in an enthralling game at Tooting & Mitcham on Wednesday night.
Rooks boss King watched as Reece Hall put the Terrors ahead with two second half strikes – before his exciting new-look Lewes outfit stormed back in the last 20 minutes with a Nic Ciardini brace.
And it could have got even better for the visitors when skilful winger Christian Nanetti seemed to have set up star striker Michael Malcolm with a gilt-edged chance to seal all three points in the final second of injury time – but the former Crawley forward somehow fired over from two yards out.
A Booth header and a superb save to deny Nic Ciardini were the highlight of a first period that was overshadowed by the second. The Terrors went ahead in the 58th minute through Reece Hall when goalkeeper Stuart Robinson had failed to deal with a ball into the box convincingly.
Minutes later, Hall doubled the hosts’ lead with a tremendous dropping volley from a half cleared free kick into the Lewes box.
Then Ciardini sprung into action and his two goals in little over five minutes put Lewes right back into it, one a faultless sidefoot past keeper Simon Lehkyt when put through and the second a superb drilled shot from 26 yards.
Sub Ian Draycott then sliced wide when through on goal before, in the third and final minute of added time, a mazy run from Christian Nanetti saw him to play a low cross into the area which was met by Malcolm no more than three yards out, but instead of smashing it into the empty net, it flew over the crossbar.
King said it had been the worst he had seen his team play this season in the first 70 minutes – but praised the character and spirit of his team in the way they fought back in the last 20.
He said: “That’s the poorest we’ve played for 70 minutes tonight. We didn’t deserve anything from the game for 70 minutes – they were better than us and sharper than us.
“We had a chance with a Booth header, and the two chances we had with Draycott and Malcolm, plus Nic Ciardini (clear in the box); it was a fantastic tackle (to deny him).
“But we have played poorly and got a point. And we should have got all three on balance.
“There’s a little bit of spirit and a little bit of character in this team. The way they came back after being two goals down showed that.
“If we hadn’t got that determination and spirit in the team, I’d be worried. But we have and it showed tonight.”
King was a lot happier with his side’s superb display in the Rooks’ 4-1 demolition of Aveley on Saturday though.
He said: “I thought we defended really, really well. We threw our bodies on the line, heading things away and diving headers away, we defended brilliantly. I was disappointed with the goal they scored; they didn’t deserve to score against us if I’m honest, but thats the only one blip on the day; that I thought we deserved to come away with a clean sheet.
One moment of lapse stepping up when we shouldn’t, defend the situation out they don’t score
“But our attacking play was superb. Boothy and Michael are getting a great understanding; they worked ever so hard. Boothy was winning all the headers today, and Michael was alive around him; he never stopped running, never gave up.”
He said of coming out after a break when one’s team is so far ahead: “It’s hard because they’re going to come out at you. Their manager’s rollocked them in there you expect them to come out stronger.
“But we could have scored more second half; we hit the crossbar, we hit the post we had scrambles on the line, so you know we could have scored more, but you can’t be greedy. You’ve got to accept that if my team’s losing 3-0 at half time I’m gonna give them an absolute rollocking and they’re going to come out and have a go, and they came and had a go. And we dealt with them, I don’t think Robinson hasn’t had a save to make.”
And the Rooks boss said to look out for goals when Lewes travel to Chertsey in the FA Cup tomorrow.
“It’s a hard place to go and play,” he said. “They’ve both scored most and conceded most in their league.”