Rooks singing in the rain thanks to late Crabb winner

A late Nathan Crabb header gave Lewes a deserved Boxing Day win on a day when the weather threatened to make the headlines.

Crabb popped up 10 minutes from time to head in a Karl Beckford corner and send the home fans at a drenched Dripping Pan into raptures.

But Lewes also had goalkeeper Kieron Thorp to thank for all three points after the former Eastbourne Town man first saved a first half Kane Wills penalty - and then pulled off a stunning double save deep into second half injury time to deny Bognor Regis Town a late equaliser.

It would have been an undeserved point for the Rocks after their hosts made the running all match on a day where the overhead conditions would have threatened an abandonment had the game continued much longer.

Lewes started the day with Callum Dunne drafted to centre half, with Steve Robinson ruled out for a further three months thanks to the knee injury he picked up at Concord Rangers. Flu sufferer Louis Hamilton was also missing from the team sheet.

There was a moment of panic, if not farce, just before kick off when substitute Joe Kay had to rush on to fill the left back berth in the sudden absence of Dom Ozga.

Bizarrely, news soon came through that Ozga - penned in to start the game - had been unable to remove an ear stud in time for kick-off.

The hosts nearly got off to the perfect start however when, on six minutes, player/manager Simon Wormull flashed a shot just past Tom Boyle’s left hand upright from the edge of the box.

On 21 minutes Wormull was involved again when an attemped shot from 40-odd yards was miscued and ended at the feet of Steve Brinkhurst on the right flank near the penalty area. The impressively dangerous winger’s cross clattered back off Boyle’s near goalpost.

And the player/manager found himself in the centre of the action yet again on 27 minutes when he spooned his shot badly over when unmarked at the edge of the area, following a good square ball from Ben Godfrey.

The nearest Bognor had come to goal throughout the vast majority of the first half was a Terry Dodd effort blazed over from just inside the box and a Wills shot driven comfortably wide following an industrious run deep into Lewes territory.

But the visitors should have taken the lead on 40 minutes when Harvey Whyte surged into the box down the Rocks’ left and was taken down just inside the area by right back Jon Dollery. It was a clear penalty although the booking for Dollery seemed a little harsh. But the home crowd behind the goal at the Philcox Stand end had the last laugh when Kieron Thorp got down to his left brilliantly to push former Lewes player Wills’ spot kick away.

The second half, for the most part, will be remembered more for the atrocious weather than for the football, although both sets of players battled gamely in the appalling conditions. Both the wind and the rain picked up substantially, making a mockery of any thoughts of attractive football.

Lewes fans behind the goal thought their side had won a penalty of their own when Brinkhurst went down heavily under a Bognor challenge, having made a suberb surge into the box from the right. However, to the astonishment to those fans behind the goal in the Philcox Stand, referee Graeme Ions instead chose to give Bognor a free kick and book Brinkhurst for simulation.

But the Rooks finally got their goal on 80 minutes. Beckford took a corner he had won himself down the Lewes left, from which Crabb hurled himself at the ball to aim a near post angled header down into Boyle’s bottom left hand corner.

However, with the game deep into the three minutes added on for stoppages, it looked as if Lewes would drop points from another conceded late goal when Stuart Axten’s bullet header from barely six yards looked like it was already past Thorp. But the Rooks keeper somehow pulled off a stunning reaction save to push the ball out... and then stand up in time to block the follow-up effort for a corner.

When that was cleared the game was up and a deserved three points was heading Lewes’ way.

One look at the waterlogged pitch just 20 minutes after the final whistle suggests referee Mr Ions would have been forced into a difficult decision to abandon the game had the deluge from the south west moved in at the start of the first half rather than the second.

Look out for match reaction from Simon Wormull on this website later this evening, and see this Friday’s Sussex Express for more comment and pictures.

ROOKS: Thorp, Dollery, Kay, Walder, Dunne, Breach (c), Godfrey (Fergany 68), Schaaf, Crabb, Wormull (Beckford 61), Brinkhurst.

SUBS: Strong, Stubbings, Ozga, J Fergany, Beckford.

ROCKS: Tom Boyle, Louis John, Daryl Wollers (Jon Marzetti 53), James Crane, Stuart Axten, Matt Partridge, Dan Beck (Ben Andrews 72), Kane Wills (c), Terry Dodd, Harvey Whyte, Lewis Stockford (Ashley Robinson 45).

SUBS: Ashley Robinson, Jon Marzetti, Doug Tuck, Dan Kempson, Ben Andrews.

ATTENDANCE: 883. REFEREE: Graeme Ions.