It has been a difficult week for those running Lewes Football Club. The arrival of former manager Steve King back at The Dripping Pan raised an eyebrow or two when he returned to the club during the summer, but the owners of the club have – rightly – remained tight-lipped over what King may or may not have been up to and, although there are any number of theories floating around this ground as to why he should have found himself at home this afternoon, no official announcement has been made and Simon Wormull takes his place in the home dug-out today.
This is, therefore, not a bad time for Kingstonian to be visiting East Sussex. A mid-table Ryman League Premier Division side that has won as many league games as it has lost in the league season, the visitors have had an inconsistent season so far – an example of this being the way that they followed up beating Tooting & Mitcham United by four goals to one away from home earlier this season, only to lose their next match by six goals to nil at Billericay Town a few days later – although a play-off place might still not be beyond them if only they can find a little more consistency from somewhere.
For a quarter of an hour, the Kingstonian side that turns up for this match looks as if it might run away with this match. They pressurise constantly, while Lewes look distracted. Not surprising, perhaps, considering the events of the last seven days or so. Despite this, however, it is Lewes that take the lead after seventeen minutes when Harry Harding is tripped just inside the penalty by a clumsy tackle from Aaron Goode. Paul Booth’s penalty beats the Kingstonian goalkeeper Rob Tolfrey, and Lewes have the lead. It’s an important goal for the home side, settling nerves and focussing them on the importance of three points.
After half an hour, Kingstonian’s afternoon takes a turn for the worse when the referee is called over by his linesman, who has heard something from the manager’s bench after Lewes were not penalised for what might have been a back-pass. After a brief conversation, the Kingstonian manager Alan Dowson is sent to the stand. Half-time arrives with little between the two sides, but a feeling that if the visitors can step up a gear, they should be able to get something out of this match. Lewes, it feels, will need to improve upon their first half performance if they are to hold onto their slender lead.
It is a more assertive Lewes side that takes the pitch for the second half, and a couple of chances, one almost entirely accidental and one carefully crafted and then gloriously wasted, prove to be rather expensive. On the one hand, it seems unlikely that Christian Nanetti meant to hit the Kingstonian crossbar with his cross from the right-hand side, but the ball over deceives Tolfrey and bounces out. On the other, all the hard work is done a few minutes later by the time that the ball lands up with Michael Malcolm, eighteen yards out and with only Tolfrey to beat, but the Lewes forward opts for the spectacular over the functional and places the ball a foot or so over the Kingstonian crossbar.
None of this is to say that Kingstonian weren’t playing a full part in this match. Shortly before Malcolm made a hash of his lines, the home goalkeeper Rikki Banks had made a fine save from Simon Huckle, and as the match moves its closing stages, they push forward more and more in search of an equaliser. With ten minutes left to play, they manage to thread a way through the Lewes defence, when a throw in on the left-hand side sees the ball end up at the feet of Stuart Duff. Duff wriggles into a little space before driving a low shot pas Banks to finally bring Kingstonian level.
The match ends level – a result that does neither side a great deal of good. Lewes need wins if they are to to keep up with the other sides at the top of the table, and this is the second successive home match that has ended with them dropping two points after having taken the lead. These dropped points may just have proved to be the tipping points in terms of their aspirations of winning the Ryman League title for this season, although they remain in a play-off position at the top of the table. Kingstonian, meanwhile, remain just below halfway, in twelfth place in the table and eight points adrift of the play-off places.
To an extent, both sides remain something of a curates egg. Lewes have had their confidence shaken of late, but are capable of playing some very good football – better, certainly, than they did through passages of this afternoon’s match. Kingstonian, meanwhile, have been demonstrating this throughout much of the season. If they can reach their potential, they could yet finish this season playing for a place in the Blue Square South at the end of the season. On the evidence of this afternoon’s performance, though, they seem likely to continue to infuriate and delight their support in equal measures.
You can see a small selection of inexpertly taken photographs from yesterday’s match here.
You can follow Twohundredpercent on Twitter by clicking here.