Down now to the town of Lewes in East Sussex, where a Non-League football club has a problem. Every time they win – and they’ve been doing it quite a lot recently – they don’t seem to move up the table, up towards the play-off spots the club targeted at the start of the season. Bad luck? Global conspiracy? Let’s examine the evidence.
Lewes’s current form is certainly impressive. Based on the past six matches in the Isthmian Premier League, the club currently lie third:
The problem being, most of the other clubs in good form are also – perhaps unsurprisingly – near the top of the table, all chasing those critical top five positions.
With only five games remaining, Lewes’s only real prospect of reaching the play-offs is finishing fifth. The eight-point gap to Aveley in fourth, not to mention an inferior goal difference, makes it highly unlikely The Rooks will be soaring any higher. Defeat against Canvey Island in midweek effectively ended all realistic hope of reeling in the top four.
And there’s a further blot on the horizon in the shape of Enfield’s midweek game in hand, which could potentially put them six points clear with a far superior goal difference. The good news? That game is against table-topping Hornchurch.
So have The Rooks been hard done by, as per the current terrace chatter? Is this a freak season where the bar has been raised higher than normal for reaching the play-offs?
Let’s look at the record books. Here are the points achieved by the team finishing in the final play-off spot of fifth for each of the last five completed seasons in The Isthmian Premier League (two seasons were disrupted by Covid):
|16/17||Wingate & Finchley||75||46||1.63|
What does this tell us? That on average you need 1.72 points per game (PPG) to finish in that crucial fifth place. Enfield, currently in fifth, are tracking at 1.83, a higher PPG than any of the previous five seasons. Lewes are on 1.70, a PPG that would have been good enough in two of the previous five seasons. Are Lewes being robbed? Sorry, Terrace Trumps, the facts don’t bear that out.
Still, the season’s not over and if there’s hope for The Rooks it’s this: the team that sneaks into the play-offs in fifth has a habit of going on to win them, right? Erm, not so much. That’s only happened once in the past 20 years and that was Cheshunt last season.
But if there is a source of positivity for The Rooks, it’s Joe Taylor. “The Bastard” has scored 25 league goals this season, his latest coming in yesterday’s win over Potters Bar Town, where he trapped a ball brilliantly before slotting it low past the Potters Bar keeper.
More signs of hope? Lewes are improving at corners. The first goal against Potters Bar was a beautiful effort, whipped into the near post by Razz Coleman De-Graft and headed home brilliantly by captain Tom Champion.
Yes, there were a few nervous moments toward the end of yesterday’s match, not least when Makise Evans scored a late goal that left the Rooks hanging on in the final ten minutes, but hang on they did. Points per game in the past six matches? 2.17. That is title-winning form, not just play-offs.
Lewes may need to win all five remaining fixtures to reach the play-offs. Ultimately, however, and unlike Boris Johnson, the league table doesn’t lie.
Lewes: Carey, Tamplin, Salmon, Champion, Mundle-Smith, Pritchard, Young, Olukoga, Gondoh, Coleman De-Graft, Taylor
Subs: Huckle, Hall, Mcgonigle, Middleton-Tozer, Murrell-Williamson
Supporters Club man of the match: The Bastard. The take-down and finish for his goal was sublime.
Video highlights from Your Instant Replay: