Lewes’s dreams of a trip to Wembley were broken in cruel fashion on Saturday when Conference North side Oxford City put six past the Rooks, reports Stuart Fuller.
On a chilly afternoon in Oxfordshire, any hopes of a cup upset were dashed within the first 15 minutes of the FA Trophy tie against Oxford City as they home side scored three times from their opening three attacks.
Garry Wilson was able to welcome back Matt Crabb from injury, replacing Joss Marshall in the starting line up from the win at Heybridge Swifts and Leroy Griffiths coming in for Nathan Crabb. The attacking 3-5-2 formation looked to be a good move as The Rooks started very brightly with both Blewden and Wheeler having early chances, forcing Oxford’s Spanish keeper into good saves.
However, with what seemed like their first attack of the game Oxford broke swiftly and took the lead when the Brazilian striker Barcelos scored from close range. Lewes hardly had time to catch their breath before the home side doubled the lead in the 11th minute when Yussuf reacted quickest to a ball into the box to make it two-nil. Two became three just 150 seconds later when the Spaniard Santiago slotted home, effectively ending the tie with 75 minutes still to play.
Lewes could have panicked but they stuck to their formation and started taking to game back to the home side. Wheeler and Crabb started getting past their men and causing all sorts of issues for the Oxford defence. Just after the half hour mark Nicky Wheeler pulled a goal back with a well taken shot after a positive run inside his marker. Wheeler almost grabbed a second a few minutes later when his smart lob was tipped over by De La Cruz.
Lewes certainly went into the half-time break with confidence, hoping that the second period would see a Witham-esque comeback. Alas it was not to be. Oxford scored a fourth a few minutes into the half when Santiago scored his second.
Lewes continued to attack and Wilson brought on Romain and Brinkhurst to add more pace and width to proceedings. Once again the Rooks dominated play for long periods but couldn’t find a way back into the game. With players committed at the wrong end of the field, they were made to pay as twice in two minutes Oxford broke quickly and scored, firstly through Isaac and then by Benjamin.
Whilst Oxford City showed their Conference North credentials at times, the Rooks could leave the City of Spires with their heads held high. Conceding five goals in a little over 10 minutes of play was harsh for a performance that in the Ryman Premier League would have seen them pushing for a win.
An excellent turn-out of 40 plus Lewes fans in a crowd of just 162 clapped the team off at the end, knowing that all the attention must now be on Wednesday’s must-win game at The Pan against Bury Town.
Oxford City: De La Cruz, Henderson, Stonehouse, Del Alamo, Lapoujade, Santiago, Barcelos, Fofana, Yussuf, Rodriguez, Winters
Subs: Isaac, Wilson, Benjamin, Pond, Scott
Lewes: Banks, S Crabb, Cole, Rowe, Logan, M Crabb, Wheeler, Davis, Blewden (Romain 55), Griffiths (Brinkhurst55), Appiah (Lovegrove 52)
Subs not used: Badger, Lightwood