“Alright, Steve? How’s it going? I saw Bob Cousins in the Gardener’s last week, said to send his regards. He’s off to Portugal next week to… what the bleeding hell was that?”
So began many conversations at The Pan yesterday afternoon, as there was barely enough time for the froth to settle on one of Mitch’s expertly pulled pints before the Rooks were one down.
Wingate broke down the left, Will Salmon half-cleared the cross, the resulting shot was parried by Lew Carey and the dinky right-winger Vasiliou converted the rebound. Cue disbelief and the unmistakable sound of Golden Goal tickets being ripped up right around the ground.
They weren’t the only things being ripped up. Juevan Spencer – for my money, one of our best players since Christmas – was being torn a new one down our right-hand side as Wingate launched attack after attack down that flank.
The Rooks were frankly lucky to get to 20 minutes without being further behind, so Wingate’s second was no less than they deserved. Mitchell Nelson got himself under a long ball forward, but seemed caught in two minds as to whether to head it clear or head it back to Carey. He ended up doing neither, softly heading the ball straight into the path of Wingate’s Cotter, who put over a delicious cross for Vasiliou to convert into an empty net.
What the actual Wingate? Having won our last two games and putting ourselves right back in the play-off frame, we were suddenly playing like a team who very much fancied a tilt at The County League.
Now, what’s kept inside Tony Russell’s cool box has been a season-long mystery. Is it Chairman Stu’s Air Miles? Tom Carlse’s packed lunch? My best guess is it’s 11 packets of smelling salts that must have been sneaked onto the pitch midway through the first half, because suddenly the Rooks came alive.
The revival began with Razz Coleman De-Graft. He took a long ball from Salmon down beautifully, ducked inside two defenders, shoved the ball back on his right and shot low past the keeper. The Wingate stopper should have kept it out, but no tosses were being given at this stage.
Disaster had seemingly been averted ten minutes later, when Brad Pritchard relieved Michael Klass of free-kick duty. Pritchard swung a great ball in to the box and Klass was there to deliver a sublime volley on his right foot. Panic over. Now was what that about Bob going to Portugal?
The second half, however, did not go to script. Lewes started OK and were creating chances. Razz, Spencer and Taylor all had presentable chances to put us in front, but all seemed to have taken a bet to smash a water bottle a foot wide of the right-hand post.
The defence, meanwhile, continued to creak. Kearney, who was thoroughly stress-testing the seams on his shirt, had already put one free header over before he was given another chance moments later, which he didn’t pass up. Cotter put in a tremendous, swerving free-kick, the big number 5 got a free header across the box and the centre-forward had enough space to run a car boot sale before slotting it past Carey.
This time, of course, there was to be no reply. The Rooks created plenty of chances. Razz smashed a glorious chance over, Joe Taylor was thwarted one-on-one and Brad Pritchard’s free header from a corner seemed to be diverted wide by a Wingate arm, but the referee was blind-sided.
All this happened in between some Oscar-winning theatrics from Wingate, where cramp suddenly had an R rate of 13.2 and Vasiliou was booked for the worst dive since I belly flopped into the Hornchurch swimming baths in 1985.
But **insert your own Alan Hansen accent here** you cannae defend like that and expect to win a game.
So, it’s advantage Cheshunt as we head to North London next weekend. Time to stock up on the heart pills.
Lewes: Carey, Spencer, Salmon, Nelson, Yao, Klass, Pritchard, Pettit, Coleman De-Graft, Dalling, Taylor
Subs: Phipp, Tanner, Maloney, Olukoga, Addy
Boyesy’s brilliant photos: