THERE was a disappointing end to the season for Lewes Under 18s in the Mercian Home Counties Finals Day at Oxford Hawks ground on Sunday.
In their semi final they lost narrowly to a skilful Wycombe team.
The early exchanges showed how close the game would be, with both teams enjoying spells of possession but the first goal was likely to prove crucial.
It almost went to Lewes but Oly Baxter could only deflect a cross wide from close range and then saw another deflection cruelly come back off the post with the goalkeeper beaten.
The opening goal was worthy of the match when Wycombe broke and a run beating four Lewes defenders ended with a fierce shot into the corner of the goal with 20 minutes gone.
Creditably Lewes went straight back upfield and James Fuller released Matt Hickman who calmly drew the keeper and slotted home the equaliser.
Wycombe applied pressure just before half time but Lewes and England U18 keeper Sam Brooks made two brilliant saves from penalty corners to keep the scores level.
In the second half, twins Edward and Robert Clare were outstanding in the Lewes defence but it was finally breached by Wycombe with a well-worked penalty corner routine midway through the half.
Lewes pushed forward again with Nicoli Parrington-Berski and captain Alex Tapping prominent in midfield but with five minutes remaining the Lewes defenders stopped, thinking an offence had occurred and Wycombe scored from close range.
Lewes camped in the Wycombe half for the remainder of the match and Hickman’s brave run ended with a save by the South Bucks side’s keeper and Fuller shot over on the reverse stick but Wycombe held firm to go through.
3rd/4th Play-off match
Lewes 1 Gerrards Cross 3
IT was always going to be tough raising their game for this play-off and so it proved.
Lewes started brightly and won their first penalty corner of the day early on but it came to nothing and Baxter had a flick saved from close range.
Lewes were dominating but needed a goal for all their pressure and it finally arrived when Angus Donaldson’s quick pass found Baxter whose turn and shot from a narrow angle surprised the keeper to give Lewes a deserved lead after 20 minutes.
Lewes then made the error of relaxing and Gerrards Cross equalised from a rebound from a penalty corner after a good save by Brooks to leave it level at half time.
Gerrards Cross were the better team in the second half and scored again from a rebound from a penalty corner early on.
Lewes struggled to keep possession and put Gerrards Cross under any pressure as they tired but, with five minutes remaining, they had successive penalty corners.
The first was blocked and the second agonisingly saw Hickman’s shot from a rebound strike the crossbar.
With two minutes remaining Lewes coach Chris Marchant took keeper Brooks off to give them 11 outfield players in a last effort to equalise, but it was not to be as Wycombe scored with the last hit of the match with a reverse stick shot into the roof of the net to seal their win.
Lewes were able to give valuable experience to Sussex U15 players Rob Cope and William Wycherley and U17 players Sam and Max Murray and Max Rhodes, which all bodes well for the future.
Some consolation was that Lewes picked up the fair play award for the day.