The other all National League tie sees Maidstone United host Gateshead in one of the two long-distance tie of the round. The North East side have lost one of their four previous meetings with Maidstone and may reach the last eight after a replay.
At 1.30pm Darren had chosen his team. At 1.35pm he had changed his team and then again at 1.45pm as the coach arrived at Kingsmeadow. I met Baz in the tunnel and even then the starting XI wasn’t finalised. When it was there was one player making his debut, young Jack Whitmore in central midfield, whilst Gus Sow came in for his first start for Lewes, playing his first game after a hand operation on an injury sustained on his debut at Faversham Town. We had a right-back playing at centre-back, a left-back playing at right-back, a left-midfielder at left-back, a centre-forward in left-midfield, two left-midfielders in the centre and on the right respectively. We did have a goal keeper in goal and a centre-forward up front so it all wasn’t back, whilst on the bench we needed a nanny due to their age to protect them from Darren and Ross’s adult language. What could possibly go wrong?
The second half saw the home side take a more direct approach, with the wind behind them. Finally the deadlock was broken when striker Gary Bradshaw poked home in what I thought was the 73rd minute. Alas, the official time-keeper ruled me a minute out. My career record of winning the golden goal still stands at one (Cray Wanderers v Lewes in April 2012 if you ask). The South Normanton manager was not impressed with his defence, nor the officials a few minutes later when his centre midfielder was flagged offside. It seemed that he had done his homework and was quoting chapter and verse on the new regulations to a bemused linesman. He was right too.
OK – let’s start with the positives. The City Banger, a roll with three local sausages in for just £2.50 was outstanding. We ate about a dozen between us. The Lewes support was close on a third of the whole attendance and we scored a goal. They were my three positives. That’s not to say the rest of the afternoon was bad – we were clinically undone by a team who play in a way that is alien to our lowly Non-League position.
As the second half started, so did the rain. When it passed from torrential to monsoon setting, most of the 40-strong Lewes fans headed for the covered terrace, leaving the hardcore LLF on behind the goal. Our dedication was rewarded on the hour mark when Sam 1 (Crabb) beat his man on the right, crossed to the penalty spot where Sam 2 (Cole) met the ball on the volley and gave Louis Wells absolutely no chance.