Burgess Hill Town spoil Darren Freeman’s welcome party at Lewes
Burgess Hill spoiled Darren Freeman’s welcome party at the Dripping Pan after securing their first double of the season, having beaten their local rivals in the reverse fixture four weeks previously.
Only three members of the Rooks starting eleven that day took to the field this time out, with an overhaul of the Lewes squad already well under way since the new boss took over.
The only change to the Hill line-up from Saturday’s win at home to Metropolitan Police saw captain Darren Budd come in and Callum Saunders drop to the bench.
Hill, cheered on by a large and vocal contingent of travelling fans, started the brighter, with Chris Smith firing an early warning sign in the first minute when he smashed a shot into the side netting of the Lewes goal from a tight angle.
Robin Deen, one of the few survivors from the previous regime, should have done better in the 6th minute as he dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box.
Five minutes later and the livewire Smith gave Hill the lead.
Will Miles showed neat footwork to get a shot off in the box following a corner, and when his effort was blocked, Smith was on hand to fire in his sixth goal of the season.
If Smith was playing the role of the Hill talisman, then Trevor McCreadie was doing a similar job for the Rooks, as his pace and power made him a continual danger to the visiting backline.
For Burgess Hill, Toby Pointing and Pat Harding were afforded a lot of space on the right side, and just prior to the half-hour mark the two combined, with Harding heading narrowly wide after Pointing swung in a cross.
At one end, the Hillians defenders were doing well to divert Lewes balls into the box to safety, and at the other, Budd had a couple of half-chances to open his account for the season that were saved.
As the interval approached, Budd thought his barren spell was over when he cut in from the left and curled a shot beyond Chris Winterton, and with Hillians fans already celebrating, the ball clipped the underside of the crossbar.
Seconds later the ball was crossed back in, and despite Joe Keehan getting his head on the ball, it was scrambled away.
Just as it looked like Burgess Hill would go into half-time with their slender advantage in tact, George Brown ghosted in at the near post to powerfully head his side level from Leon Redwood’s corner.
It was a sucker punch for Hill, and it looked like it had seriously affected them three minutes into the second period when McCreadie was gifted a one-on-one opportunity, but fortunately for the away side his shot trickled past Josh James’ far post.
In the 55th minute there were half-hearted shouts for a Hillians penalty, however, referee Paul Yates remained undeterred and waved play on.
The derby-day atmosphere came to the fore with a spot of handbags between Ollie Rowland and Lewes midfielder Phil Appiah, with both of them receiving yellow cards for their sins.
Rowland was substituted shortly afterwards, making way for Scott Kirkwood, and with Saunders having replaced Smith a couple of minutes earlier, the Hillians were clearly trying to inject a bit of energy into the game as they went in search of maximum points.
The changes paid dividends, and after a clever passage of play across the box in the 76th minute, Keehan fed Lee Harding, and his first-time effort took a wicked deflection to lift the ball over the grounded Winterton and into the Lewes goal.
It wasn’t the best goal Lee Harding will ever score, but the winner against Lewes will be one he won’t be forgetting any time soon.
New signing Sam Gargan came on for his second appearance and replaced Lee Harding six minutes from the end to try and hold the ball up; a job he did effectively.
The Hill defence put in a professional performance in the closing stages, yet it could have been a different story had the referee adjudged Will Miles’ late chest to have caught his arm in the area in the 93rd minute.
Despite the mass calls for a penalty, Yates once again waved away the appeals, and soon blew his whistle, much to the relief of the Hillians fans.
Burgess Hill’s eighth league win of the season ironically moves them up to eighth in the standings, but for Lewes their relegation worries continue as they remain in the dropzone and nine points from safety.
It was an entertaining end-to-end game, and in truth the result could have gone either way, but for the Hillians the three points are part of a superb return of 27 points from their opening 18 matches in the Ryman Premier.
MOM: Darren Budd - Sam Fisk and Toby Pointing had excellent games in their respective full-back roles, but the skipper just edges it with a creative and industrious performance.
LEWES: Winterton, Brinkhurst, Marsh-Brown, Appiah, Breach (Logan 46), Malins, Ciardini, Brown (Conlon 80), McCreadie, Deen, Oldham (Redwood 44).
SUBS NOT USED: Laing, Wilson
HILLIANS: James, Pointing, Fisk, Budd, Pearson, Miles, Rowland (Kirkwood 65), Keehan, P.Harding, Smith (Saunders 59), L.Harding (Gargan 84).
SUBS NOT USED: Doherty, Johnson.