A professional performance helped Lewes to a convincing victory over struggling Cray Wanderers at the Pan, ending a run of back-to-back defeats in the process, reports Tom Harper.
Garry Wilson made three changes to the side which had lost 2-0 at home to Lowestoft in their previous game. Dan Smith and the injured Jack Dixon were replaced in the side by Steve Brinkhurst and Reece Hall, with Ben Austin replacing Jay Lovett in the only other change. Bayan Fenwick was also unavailable because of the flu, along with Sam Gore, Matt Crabb and Ross Treleaven who are all struggling with injuries.
Lewes started the game on the front foot and could have been 4-0 up inside the first ten minutes, with Brinkhurst hitting the post twice with close-range headers and seeing another headed effort tipped over the crossbar by Charlie Grainger before Ben Austin saw his header kept out at point-blank range by the visitors goalkeeper.
Despite not being in the game during the opening stages, Cray nearly took a shook lead after 15 minutes when Helge Orome saw a header from a Jack Clark corner tipped over the crossbar by Rikki Banks. Lewes’ task was made tougher after little over 20 minutes, as Andy Pearson was forced off through injury and was replaced by Lovett.
The Rooks continued to press though, and should have gone ahead just before the half-hour mark when Nathan Crabb saw a close-range effort kept out by Grainger after taking the ball past two visiting defenders.
Lewes finally got the goal their first-half display deserved after 31 minutes. Brinkhurst was the scorer in spectacular fashion, as he sent an acrobatic overhead kick from just inside the penalty area into the top corner after the Cray defence were unable to clear a Nick Wheeler cross.
However, the Rooks suffered another injury blow five minutes later as captain Jack Walder was forced off after picking up a knock and was replaced by youth-team player Josh Marshall, who was making his first-team debut.
The departure of Walder saw Fraser Logan take the armband, and the midfielder responded with an impressive display for the remainder of the game.
Despite losing two key players to injury, Lewes doubled their lead three minutes before half-time. Lovett was the scorer, as he stooped to head home from close range after a dangerous Logan free-kick had caused problems in the Cray penalty area.
Cray almost found a route back into the game just minutes into the second half, as the unmarked Jack Sherrat headed a Clark free-kick wide of the far post.
They were made to pay for this missed opportunity, as Lewes went 3-0 up after 54 minutes. The goal was rightly awarded to Lovett, as he saw his goalbound effort from another excellent Logan set-piece delivery deflected past Grainger by a Cray defender.
Although the significant deflection was ultimately what saw the ball end up in the back of the net, Lovett’s initial effort was on target and so the goal should be his.
Lewes continued to look dangerous from set-pieces, with Austin sending a very presentable opportunity from close range over the crossbar after yet another Logan delivery.
A rare foray into the Lewes half almost bought Cray back into the game with 25 minutes remaining though, as Tommy Whitnell found himself clean through on goal but could only send his effort into the side-netting.
The game began to peter out at this stage, with Lewes controlling possession without really like adding to the comprehensive lead they had built earlier in the game.
The Rooks did however add a fourth goal with one minute remaining, as substitute Dan Smith swept the ball home from close range after a Marshall cross from the right wing had been flicked on by Nathan Crabb.
Cray continued to work hard though, and pulled a goal back in the first minute of stoppage time through Clark, who sent a low effort across Banks and into the bottom corner.
This was an important victory for Lewes, who rarely looked troubled by Cray and could quite easily have scored more goals on the night.
However, seeing two more key players in Pearson and Walder added to the growing injury list will have been slightly disappointing for the management team heading into one of the busiest periods of the season.
Next up for the Rooks is a trip to second-place Kingstonian on Saturday, kick-off at 3pm.
The goals from Wednesday night can be view here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51kMm3-yCbA&feature=youtu.be
Lewes: Banks, S. Crabb, Cole, Pearson (Lovett 22), Austin, Walder (Marshall 36), Wheeler, Brinkhurst (Smith 70), Hall, N. Crabb, Logan.
Unused Subs: Hendon, Madhani.
Cray Wanderers: Grainger, Talbot, Clark, Day, Orome, Young (Bardon 76), Stavrinou (Marshall-Katung 62), Sherrat, Whitnell, Stone, Henry.
Unused Subs: Jahar, Larin, Beckett.
Referee: Paul Kelly