It was a case of what could have been last night as The Rooks put on one of their best away performances of the season, reports Stuart Fuller.
With Alex Malins still injured, it was an unchanged starting XI that took to the field against Play-off contenders Billericay Town whilst Darren Freeman was able to welcome back James Hammond on the bench. With points a priority there was no respect for our host’s league position as Lewes tried to play football on a poor surface and with a referee who seemed obvious to the physical nature of the home side’s approach. Lewes lost both Alex Laing and Miguel Baptista in the first half to heavy, unpunished challenges, whilst Lloyd Cotton was forced off early in the second half after a late blow on the head in first half injury time.
Lewes looked to exploit the flanks, with Steve Brinkhurst and Leon Redwood often pushing beyond the Billericay full-backs. One such foray resulted in the ball in the back of the net after 15 minutes when Laing’s superb cross was volleyed home by Smith but the linesman ruled him offside. The Billericay keeper was the busier of the two in the first half, although the two great chances the Rooks had, both from central set-pieces were wasted.
The hosts took the lead a few minutes into the second half from our Achilles heel – a set piece. Redwood’s harsh foul on the Billericay right was punished when full-back Alex Stephenson headed home unmarked from the resulting free-kick. The Lewes faithful of ten fans, braving the wind and the rain, may have felt the worse but the team stuck to their neat, passing football. The introduction of Josh Street and James Hammond put Billericay on the back-foot and it was a question of when and not if that the equaliser would come.
With twelve minutes to go, Josh Street beat his man and smashed a ball into the roof of the net, via a deflection. It was no more than the Rooks deserved. Billericay were on the back foot and boss Craig Edwards was forced to take the measure of bolstering his midfield to stop the creativity of the young Rooks who were playing some beautiful football.
Henry Muggeridge had two golden chances but saw his efforts go high and wide from dangerous positions, whilst Leon Redwood was hacked down in the area with the ball nowhere near, yet the referee deemed the Billericay had played the imaginary ball.
Billericay’s style of play certainly caused the Rooks some concern, no more so than on the terraces but it was Lewes who finished the stronger, looking to gain all three points. Alas, time was not on our side and whilst in normal circumstances we would have been very happy with a point away to a Play-off contender, the performance deserved more.
The performance did underline one thing. Despite the Rooks league position, not one of the squad is throwing in the towel and will fight for every point on offer. Listen to Darren’s thoughts on the performance here.
Attentions now turn to the vital game at home to VCD Athletic on Saturday, kick off 3pm.
Billericay Town: Giddens, Diallo, Stephenson, Hubble, Okosieme, Beavan, Hazlewood, Poole, Cox, Fondop-Talom, Nesbitt
Subs not used: Monville, Sodje, Kouassi, Derry, Abdul
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, Redwood, Conlon, Freeman, Badger, Muggeridge, Cotton (Ben El-Mhanni – 69 mins), Smith, Laing (Street – 34 mins), Baptista (Hammond – 27 mins)
Subs not used: Carey, Okojie
Referee: Tom Hancock