Sunday 14th February 2021 – FA Women’s Championship at The Dripping Pan
What comes around, goes around. A week ago The Rooks were sent to Coventry on a freezing cold afternoon and came away with all three points thanks to an injury time winner from Georgia Timms. Seven days later and they were on the receiving end of a strike late into added time as the battle for 5th place in the FA Women’s Championship honours went to the team from South East London.
Progress in football is measured in many different ways. For Lewes it is all about being able to compete against all of the teams in Step 2 of the Women’s game in England. To be one of the top twenty three teams is in itself a huge achievement, being one of only three clubs who are not attached to a Men’s Premier League or Championship club. One of those other sides is London City Lionesses, formed as a breakaway from Millwall FC two seasons ago.
Prior to this game, only four points separated Lewes in 6th with Liverpool (mentioning the two clubs in the same sentence as playing at the same level is still a pinch-me moment), with the Lionesses sandwiched in between. Three points for the Rooks and they would be back on track for the highest place finish in their history.
With the four January transfer window signings starting again, secured thanks to the recent sponsorship deal with Lyle & Scott, Lewes looked to take the game to one of the league’s in form teams. Nearly 500 minutes without conceding a goal and arriving in East Sussex on the back of consecutive wins, it was no surprise that they started the stronger of the two but it was the home side who took the lead when the impressive Lucy Ashworth-Clifford caused chaos in the box the Zoe Cross’s effort hit the post but the ball rebounded kindly to Ini Umotong who smashed the loose ball home.
The lead didn’t last long as Primus was able to bundle the ball home from close range after a smart save at her near post by Tatiana Saunders. If that goal was scrappy then there was nothing untidy about the visitor’s second with a stunning strike from Balfour from just on the corner of the box. Lewes came back again and another Ashworth-Clifford cross behind the full-back saw Emma Jones pull out a superb strike of her own, by the linesman felt she was offside (questionable based on the replay but there’s no VAR in these parts). Half-time and it was 2-1 to the visitors.
In a world of Red and Amber zones, mask wearing, protocol adhering social distancing, it was a rare treat to be able to retreat into the club house out of the cold where Duncan, our stand-in handy man was on hand to make me Bovril. Such small pleasures remind you of what we used to take for granted. It is so sad to see a bar that would normally be heaving at half-time with talk of the major incidents, the interval scores from elsewhere and Cynical Dave cursing Arbroath from potentially ruining his accumulator.
The bubble of nostalgia is soon burst as we return back to our amber zone with a view of the empty terraces. The Rooks tried their hardest to break down a defence that is the meanest in the league. But it is at the other end where the first real chance comes as the visitors are awarded a penalty but it is sent high over the bar, hitting one of the crash barriers on the Ham Lane Terrace and flying out of the ground.
With ten minutes to play the Rooks have a penalty of their own as two Lewes players go tumbling – take your pick for which one is fouled for the offence. Ini Utomong steps up and sends the keeper the wrong way.
On the balance of play a draw would be the fairest result, but football isn’t fair and from a corner in the fourth minute of injury time the ball falls to Ellie Mason and she stabs home from close range to give the Lionesses all three points.
We all try to make the best of the situation. Football without fans isn’t the beautiful game but we are in a world where we have little option but to carry on as best we can. For the 588 fans who watched the game live via our stream across the world the Rooks can be proud of the effort they put in, playing their part in an exciting game that raised the thermometer a few degrees on a chilly afternoon in East Sussex.