LEWES made it three wins in the last four games with a 1-0 victory in a nervy and scrappy affair over a struggling Leatherhead side at the Dripping Pan on Wednesday night.
A 23rd minute deflected free kick from Harry Harding proved the difference between the sides on a night when the result was far more important than the performance.
Simon Wormull’s men had played well on Saturday against high-flying Lowestoft Town only to be sickened by a Lowestoft equaliser in the fourth-minute of injury time (see report on page 67). So it was vital for the Rooks’ slowly-increasing confidence to bounce back against fourth-from-bottom Leatherhead.
Lewes were the better team in the first half but the second period was a hands-to-the-pump affair as the hosts were drawn into a desperate battle to retain their lead.
The game has started well, with the Rooks having early efforts at goal from Harding and Jack Walder blocked and hit wide respectively, before the hosts did take the lead, midway through the first half.
Paul Booth was fouled on the edge of the box when trying to turn his marker and and Harding’s subsequent free kick left keeper Chico Ramos flat-footed after taking a heavy deflection off a defender on the way past the Tanners’ wall.
Leatherhead’s best chance at goal in the first half came in the first and only minute of added time when Billy Manners fired well over when well-placed just inside the area.
The second half was a quiet affair until just after the hour mark, when the visitors suddenly laid seige on the Lewes goal in dramatic fashion. First a Harry Ottaway shot flashed across the face of goal, then substitute Elliott Thompson smacked an effort against the Lewes bar from six yards, Then, seconds later Jamie Coyle had a shot superbly saved by Matt Ingram from close range, before Thompson wasted the rebound.
Lewes had precious few real chances second half, indeed, the hosts failed to get a single shot on target after the break. But having said that, the visitors had not much to offer other than that brief flurry in front of the Rooks goal.
The result secured Lewes’ third win in four games – and only their second home clean sheet since November 19. Wormull said: “It wasn’t a great game, to be honest with you. There wasn’t a lot of football – the conditions kind of dictated what was going to happen tonight.
“But we’re on a great run and again it’s another great three points picked up. After Saturday’s disappointment in not picking up the three points, it was imperative we did get that tonight – whichever way it came. Obviously we had a fortunate goal with the free kick and what have you, but we defended resolutely again, which is great because that’s learning from what happened Saturday.”
Wormull said the players were “absolutely gutted after Saturday’s game. “It’s because they put so much effort into it and played so well that it was like a loss. But to come into a game like tonight and put it to bed and get the three points, it shows just how far we’ve come as a team.
“What we’re seeing now is a bit of togetherness. You can see the boys throwing themselves on the line to make sure that we don’t lose games – and obviously people that have come in are doing great; they’ve settled in superbly well.
“Like I say, it wasn’t a great game tonight but we can’t play great every week, we can’t play pretty football all the time. We’ve have to play effective football, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Lewes face a tricky trip to league leaders to Billericay Town tomorrow. Wormull said: “They’re a very direct side, a big strong, organised side. (But) we beat them at home, and, like I keep saying to the boys, there’s no pressure on us.
“If we keep turning out the wins we’ll see where we are at the end of the season. Billericay need to win to keep the pressure on Hornchurch and to stay at the top, so there’s more pressure on them than there is us. We can go there full of confidence and if we come out with a result all the better.”
“And we’re coming into that game as the form team of the league now. We really should have taken 12 points from the last 12 – all right, 10 from 12 is fantastic but it just gives everyone a little bit of believe that we can actually do what we want to do.”
ROOKS: Ingram 8, Kamara 7, Hamilton 7, Somner 7, Robinson © 8, Hustwick 8, Walder (Howell 78) 7, Harding 7, Crabb 7, Booth (Draycott 67) 6, Gregory. 8 Subs not used: Draycott, Leach, Schaaf, Howell, Wormull. REF: David Spain. ATT: 347.