Lewes were unable to ease their relegation fears when they went down 2-1 at home to fellow strugglers Hastings United today.
A win against the U’s would have pulled the Rooks nine points ahead of them – the team second-bottom in the Ryman Premier (the highest of the two relegation places in the division this season) – while a draw would have kept them six points ahead of the Pilot Field outfit.
But this defeat to Sean Ray’s men means Hastings are now just three points behind Lewes – with the U’s still to play four more games than the Rooks this season.
Meanwhile, Wingate and Finchley’s gutsy 1-1 draw with high-flyers Wealdstone means they pull level with Lewes on 32 points – although goal difference keeps Lewes in the 18th place they occupied at the start of the day (and Wingate have played one game more than the Rooks, with 36 to Lewes’ 35).
But it’s getting too close for comfort for Lewes at the bottom of the table now, and Simon Wormull’s men will be anxious to take something from Monday’s game away at Bognor Regis Town (Bognor lost 3-0 away to league leaders Whitehawk yesterday).
A disastrous first half saw Lewes trail Hastings 2-0 at the break. And despite a second half rally which saw the Rooks pull one back through a Karl Beckford penalty, the hosts were unable to find an equaliser.
Following a lively start for Lewes, which saw them unfortunate not to receive a penalty when Steven Brinkhurst appeared to be felled inside the box, it was the U’s who led on 11 minutes. A Danny Ellis corner to the far post saw player/boss Ray leap highest to loop a header over Kieron Thorp.
It was soon 2-0 when new signing Alassane N’Diaye – who had been fortunate not to give away that spot kick for his foul on Brinkhurst – converted a curling Zac Attwood free kick at the far post.
N’Diaye then should have made it three but headed straight at Thorp following another poorly defended free kick, before Lewes had a chance to pull it back to 2-1 when Chris Breach headed over from a Karl Beckford free kick. Harry Harding also came close to halving the defecit for the Rooks when he chipped just over from 20 yards.
Lewes rallied after the break and Hastings were hampered when goalkeeper Matt Cruttwell had to hobble off with an injury and was replaced in goal by midfielder Sam Adams.
But despite that setback for Hastings – and the 77th minute penalty scored by Beckford when Ray had fouled Nathan Crabb in the box – the hosts could not test the stand-in keeper adequately enough to force an equaliser.
Eight minutes of injury time were added but the visitors held out to win 2-1.
Rooks: Thorp, Brewer, Hamilton, Walder, Breach, Malins, Godfrey, Harding, Crabb, Beckford, Brinkhurst. Subs: Dunne, Kay, Stubbings, Lewis, Madhani.