South Premier Division 1
Milton Keynes 4
Defeat at home sees Lewes relegated
Any lingering hopes Lewes had of survival in Division 1 were extinguished with a disappointing heavy defeat at the Southdown Club against Milton Keynes.
The visitors had nothing to play for sitting just below mid table whereas the hosts knew only victory would extend their stay in the league and possibly take the relegation outcome to the last match of the season.
The opening exchanges saw neither side impose themselves but there were early signs of nerves from Lewes with frequent misplaced passes. Milton Keynes began to look the more settled with some flowing moves which stretched the home defence and it was no surprise when they took the lead following a cross from the right which was converted at the far post after fifteen minutes. Lewes had failed to heed the early warnings and then lost defender James Callaway to a leg injury which further disrupted the defence. Lewes needed to respond quickly but wasted a penalty corner chance to get back on level terms. They then had their best spell of the match just before half time when Jonny Rea skilfully beat three players but his shot unluckily came back off the far post and was cleared. Alex Lloyd then failed to control a pinpoint pass from Matt Rickson when unmarked in front of goal and finally skipper Matt Clark had two chances in front of the goalkeeper the first brilliantly saved and then he put the rebound into the side netting. You sensed it was not going to be Lewes’ day.
The second half saw early pressure from Lewes but Milton Keynes defended strongly and in numbers to frustrate a large home crowd. Lewes could not get enough quality balls to 17-goal centre forward Alex Baxter and became nervous pushing further players up the pitch leaving the defence exposed, and from a quick break suddenly found themselves 2-0 down. They then forced two penalty corners themselves in a last effort to get back into the match the first was cleared and the second saw Harvey Waller’s powerful flick saved. Lewes goalkeeper Josh Pewter then made a succession of crucial saves when his defence went walkabout but the crucial third goal arrived with ten minutes remaining from a penalty corner strike. Lewes’s heads dropped and Milton Keynes put the icing on the cake when they broke again and scored from close range in the final minutes.
Captain Matt Clark summed up the feeling at the club after the game “I’d like to thank everyone who came to support us. Whilst I believe the team gave it everything, the performance wasn’t right. The support this year has been fantastic both at the side of the pitch and in the bar and we owe it to the club to continue to fight and put on a performance in the final game of the season. We’ll bounce back.”
Lewes will finish second bottom in the league, the same as last year, but the complicated play offs from the leagues above will not save them this time. They have youngsters coming through the club and will have to consider blooding them earlier than planned. They will no doubt return to this league in the future, which is only one below the National league, but in the meantime will have to regroup and come back stronger next season to push for immediate promotion. It will not be easy.
They face their final fixture of the season on 2nd April at home to Henley.
Under 21s Reach County Cup Final
Lewes 2 (Cooke, Heinzl) – Eastbourne 1
Lewes 1 (Devonport) – Horsham 1
Lewes 2 (Alvgren, Cooke) – Brighton 2
Calmly led by captain Sam Murray and vice captain Harvey Waller, Lewes U21s kept their cool on a nerve racking day in Eastbourne to secure their place in another county U21s final.
A smart finish from Sam Heinzl and an excellent deflected chance from Alex Cooke ensured Lewes recovered from a goal down to take the spoils against Eastbourne.
Sterling efforts from defenders Ben Griggs, Max Wooten and James Heaton built the platform for Harry Devonport to score a wonderful individual goal and a draw against Horsham.
And after an early flowing move had allowed Patrick Alvgren to give Lewes the lead, Cooke brought the scores back level at two a piece at the final whistle versus Brighton meaning the boys in green maintained their unbeaten record and a place in April’s final.
The final is scheduled for 23rd April at the Southdown Club in Lewes, with all spectators welcome for the first day of the Sussex Men’s Finals weekend