Red card costs Lewes two points

Two goals from Jonte Smith were not enough to help Lewes to a much-needed win against fellow strugglers VCD Athletic, as the second-half sending off of Lloyd Cotton saw the visitors fight back from two goals down to prevent the Rooks picking up three vital points reports Tom Harper.

Darren Freeman made three changes to the side that had drawn 1-1 at Billericay in their previous game, with Alex Malins, James Hammond and Josh Street replacing Jordan Badger, Alex Laing and Miguel Baptista in the starting line-up.

Both sides made a lively start to the game, with Alexander Kelly shooting straight at Chris Winterton when well placed for the visitors with the first real chance of the game.

The Rooks took the lead with their first opportunity after just 12 minutes, as Smith latched onto a long ball forward from Steve Brinkhurst and lobbed goalkeeper Max Huxter from outside the area to score his sixth goal since joining the club in January.  Lewes enjoyed the majority of the play for much of the rest of the half, and saw Smith see a close-range effort well saved by Huxter after the goalkeeper had not been able to gather a cross from Henry Muggeridge.  The visitors grew into the game in the lead-up to half-time though, with Winterton forced into a fine save to keep out a close-range header from Ricky Sappleton.

Lewes started the second half on the front foot and doubled their lead just eight minutes after the break through Smith, who sent a superb half-volley from just inside the area into the top corner after a cross from Muggeridge had not been cleared by the VCD defence.  At this stage, the Rooks were playing some excellent football and looked more than capable of increasing their lead every time they went forward.

The game was turned on its head just after the hour though, as referee Simon Finnigan controversially sent off Cotton for blocking what was deemed to be a goal-bound effort with his arm, conceding a penalty in the process.  Sappleton sent Winterton the wrong way from the spot to bring the visitors back into the game, when just minutes earlier it looked as though Lewes were going to push on and record a comfortable victory.

VCD looked to make the most of their man advantage at every opportunity, and saw Sappleton head  a Malachi Hudson cross over the bar when well placed as the Rooks defence struggled to contain the visitors.

The goal the home fans had been dreading and VCD had been waiting for came after 76 minutes, as Sappleton headed home a right-wing cross from Frantz Tchonang at the far post to level the scores.

Both sides looked for a winner in the closing stages, but were unable to create any clear-cut opportunities and were forced to settle for a point that the visitors will undoubtedly be happier with but has done little to close the gap on the other sides in the relegation battle for either side.

The Rooks will hope to put this result behind them when they travel to fellow strugglers Brentwood Town next Saturday, kick-off at 3pm.

Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, Redwood, Hammond, Freeman, Malins, Muggeridge, Cotton, Smith (Badger 73), Conlon (Carey 59), Street (Laing 69).

Unused Subs: Okojie, Ben El-Mhanni.

Booked: Malins.

Sent off: Cotton.

VCD Athletic: Huxter, Imndia, Probert, Avery, Bruce, Tchonang, Kelly (Joseph 71), Duncan, Sappleton, Bankole (Nwokeji 64), Hudson.

Unused Subs: Budd, Menga, Figura.

Booked: Tchonang, Duncan.

Referee: Simon Finnigan

Attendance: 398

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Author: stuartnoel

Nearly prize winning author of Passport to Football, Budget Airline Football and European Football - A Fans Guide.