An impressive performance saw Lewes finish the season with a well-deserved draw against third-placed East Thurrock, as the Rooks ended the campaign without a home defeat since December reports Tom Harper.
Darren Freeman made two changes to the side that narrowly lost at Dulwich Hamlet last weekend, with Alex Malins and Lee Carey replacing Jordan Badger and Alex Laing in the starting line-up.
The visitors made a bright start, knowing that a win could see them finish second depending on results elsewhere, with Ben Marlow shooting just wide from the edge of the area after a purposeful run through midfield. They took the lead after just nine minutes, as top scorer and captain Sam Higgins found himself with time and space 25 yards from goal, and sent a superb effort past Chris Winterton and into the top corner.
East Thurrock continued to press and should have doubled their lead minutes later when Tom Wraight sent a free header wide from a dangerous Ryan Sammons cross. The Rooks gradually began to see more of the ball as the half progressed though, and equalised after 23 minutes.
Henry Muggeridge was the scorer, latching onto a mis-hit strike from James Hammond and cutting inside from the left before sending an excellent curling effort past Lucas Lidakevicius and into the far corner.
This goal galvanised Lewes, who played arguably their best football of the game for the remainder of the half. Ronnie Conlon sent a curling effort wide from the edge of the area, before Jonte Smith hit the side-netting from a tight angle after latching onto a through-ball from Muggeridge at the end of an incisive counter-attack as the Rooks came close to taking the lead before half-time.
Lewes started the second half on the front foot, with Hammond seeing a close-range effort well saved by Lidakevicius after some good football down the right wing. East Thurrock continued to pose an occasional threat themselves though, as both Higgins and substitute Daryl Robson saw strikes kept out by the legs of Winterton.
The Rooks finished the game strongly and thought they had taken the lead in the final ten minutes, as Smith latched onto a through-ball from Laing and finished past Lidakevicius. Unfortunately for the majority of the crowd, the linesman had raised his flag to signal offside as soon as the ball had been played, although the reaction of Smith suggested it was a close call.
Lewes continued to push for a winner late on, and saw Lidakevicius react well to keep out a close-range effort from Lloyd Cotton after a dangerous Laing cross. However, the Rooks were forced to settle for a draw, which was arguably a fair result based on chances created by both sides over the course of the game.
Lewes head into the summer after an encouraging second half of the campaign, with plenty of reasons for optimism ahead of next season in Ryman South after some impressive performances and results since the turn of the year.
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, Redwood, Hammond, Freeman, Malins, Muggeridge (Coppola 81), Cotton, Smith, Conlon (Laing 59) (Okojie 90), Carey.
Unused Subs: Badger, Greenfield.
East Thurrock United: Lidakevicius, Sammons, Knott, Ellul, Hayes, Wood (Morgan 66), Scott, Marlow, Higgins (Robson 66), Ruel, Wraight (Hogan 66).
Unused Subs: Peddie, Craddock.
Referee: Stuart Butler