A late comeback from Merstham denied Lewes all three points in a result that moves the Rooks off the foot of the table for the first time in several months, but prevents them significantly closing the gap on the sides outside the relegation zone reports Tom Harper.
Darren Freeman made two changes to the side that had drawn 0-0 with Wingate just two days previously, with Dee Okojie and Jonte Smith replacing Ronnie Conlon and Charlie Coppola in the starting line-up.
Smith deserves huge credit for turning out for the Rooks less than 48 hours after representing Bermuda, especially after only arriving at Heathrow at lunchtime after his flight back to the UK had been diverted to Manchester this morning due to bad weather.
The return of Smith saw the Rooks make a bright start, and he opened the scoring after just four minutes, as he was on hand to finish from close range after Merstham had been unable to clear a corner from Henry Muggeridge.
The Rooks were playing some excellent football, and were looking to use the pace of Okojie and Muggeridge out wide to stretch the Merstham back four at every opportunity. Merstham have enjoyed an impressive first season in Ryman Premier since winning promotion last season though, and saw Tom Kavanagh shoot straight at Chris Winterton from the edge of the area as they came into the game more as the half progressed.
The hosts should have equalised minutes later, as former Lewes winger Arron Hopkinson latched onto a through-ball but was denied by Winterton when clean through on goal.
Despite creating few clear-cut opportunities, the Rooks could have doubled their lead just before the break, as Jonte Smith latched onto a long kick forward from Winterton only to see Josh Smith in the Merstham goal save his effort from a tight angle.
Lewes made the best possible start to the second half by doubling their lead just four minutes after the restart. Leon Redwood was the scorer, beating Josh Smith at his near post with an accurate 25-yard free-kick.
Having rarely threatened up to this point, Merstham started playing on the front foot and gave the Rooks plenty of defending to do as they looked to find a way back into the game.
Kershaney Samuels saw a goal-bound effort blocked before the ball was eventually cleared, and Charlie Penny completely mis-hit a shot at the far post when it seemed easier to score after good work down the left from Hopkinson.
The hosts were handed a route back into the game after 74 minutes, as Michael Abnett was caught by Winterton as he broke into the penalty area. Penny took the spot-kick, and waited for Winterton to dive to his left before calmly rolling the ball down the middle of the goal to halve the deficit.
Merstham completed their comeback just five minutes later, as substitute Calum Willock scrambled the ball home from close range after the Rooks had been unable to clear an inswinging free-kick from Hopkinson.
Both sides pushed for a winner in the closing stages, with Okojie, Steve Brinkhurst and substitute Ronnie Conlon all just missing the target for Lewes, and Hopkinson shooting straight at Winterton when well placed for the hosts.
However, despite the best efforts of both teams, the game finished all square, a result Merstham will undoubtedly be happier with after being two goals down with less than 20 minutes remaining.
Based on clear-cut chances created, a draw may just about have been a fair result, but Lewes will view this as a missed opportunity having held the lead and defended so well for such long periods of the game.
This result stretches the Rook’s unbeaten run to five games, but it has been the inability to convert draws into wins during that run that has prevented Lewes from closing the gap any further on the sides immediately above the relegation zone.
Lewes will hope to extend their unbeaten run and pick up three vital points when they travel to Kingstonian on Saturday, kick-off at 3pm.
Merstham: Smith, Abnett, Campbell, Douglas, Henriques (Cooper 8), Samuels, Brown (Rhule 67), Kavanagh, Penny, Howard (Willock 46), Hopkinson.
Unused Subs: Azeez, Nehemie.
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, Redwood, Carey, Freeman, Malins, Muggeridge (Coppola 82), Hammond (Conlon 67), Smith (Greenfield 51), Laing, Okojie.
Unused Subs: Badger, Stroomberg.
Referee: Neil West