Last Saturday Lewes looked to record their sixth consecutive league win. These are heady times for us Rooks fans, with many of us never experiencing the crushing inevitability of snatching defeats from the jaws of victory, but coming into the game against Molesey we were top of the current form table over the last ten games, having won eight and drawn two. Such form was unheard of but was down to a new spirit within the dressing room and players hitting form. During that spell we have also scored goals for fun, twenty-three of them in the last ten games prior to Saturday. Scoring goals, playing entertaining football, winning games – we were living the dream.
Saturday’s opponents, Molesey, had lost seven out of their eight away league games, scoring just twice in the defeats. If I was a betting man then I may have put a pound on a home win. Confidence has that effect on me – heck I’ve even been known to turn the heating on before the end of November at home.
But what you can never factor in is the weather.
The forecast for Saturday was for a storm to hit the South Coast in the evening, so bad that a yellow weather warning had been issued. I’d flown in from Florida, landing at Gatwick at 11am with bright blue sunshine. The pitch looked perfect and we looked forward to seeing some free-flowing football especially with the return of striker Jonté Smith to the Dripping Pan.
Lewes 2 Molesey 2 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 19th November 2016
Ten minutes in and whilst the rain had started to fall, it was no worse than what we would have expected at this time of year. Charlie Coppola got the right side (for us) of the full-back and was hauled down. Penalty. Jamie Brotherton slotted home 1-0. The only disappointment was having the golden goal at 9 minutes.
The rain started to get harder but still it wasn’t causing us many issues. We were able to play the ball around on the floor and always looked like scoring again, the surprise being we had to wait until the 40th minute when Jonté Smith picked the ball up 40 yards out, twisted his marker inside out before slotting in to the far corner of the net. 2-0 at half-time.
As the teams came out for the second half there was concern in the stands and personally I felt that if the rain did not let up we would soon run into a situation where puddles would start appearing on the pitch and the game would be in doubt. I’d hate to see the game abandoned, especially as we were on top and currently sitting in 5th place in the league, our highest position all season.
On the hour mark the puddles were very evident and the ball started to stick. There was no way that the game would finish, with the rain continuing to fall. Five minutes later Molesey scored, a great solo effort from Ashley Lodge. The Rooks performance seemed to mirror the state of the playing surface – deteriorating quickly.
Seventy minutes gone and the Molesey bench started making serious noise to the officials that the game was becoming farcical. I couldn’t agree more. It was only a matter of time before the pitch got saturated to a point of unplayability. Five minutes later Molesey equalised when Tom Windsor tapped into an empty net.
After the goal celebrations the referee consulted with his linesmen and called the captains together. “Here we go” we thought, game off. But he actually asked whether they wanted to continue to play to the end (discovered post match). Both captains felt they could win the game, but surely that’s not a decision they should be asked to make. Neither side would be the loser if it was abandoned – Molesey may have felt aggrieved they would have lost a point but would have probably fancied their chances against us again.
The rain continued to fall, the puddles started to join together to form a lake. Running with the ball became impossible (as the above picture from the awe-inspiring James Boyes shows), passing the ball became a lottery and trying to make any timely tackles was a recipe for disaster. Whilst it was amusing to watch, the core elements of the game – skill, passing, movement – become secondary to trying to predict how the ball would move. We had chances to win it, so did our opponents.
With 90 minutes played the referee inexplicably blew for time. The second half had featured five substitutions, two goals, a caution and a few stoppages for the elements. To add nothing on seemed quite bizarre but more so was the decision to continue to play it when there was the opportunity for the officials to call it a day. It may seem a bit like sour grapes, especially as our loss was greater than the Molesey gain but few who watched that game could say the weather didn’t materially affect the match. We often cry for common sense in the game and in this case I don’t think that principle was applied.
You win some, you lose some and some are simply determined by the elements.