The temperatures were high but the spirits of the travelling support was even higher on Saturday evening as trains back to Folkestone from East Sussex carried supporters celebrating a win at a ground very few had seen Invicta win at in the past.
A far cry from Invicta’s last visit to The Pan, when there were fears of a postponement as heavy rain saturated the pitch before kick off, it was shade supporters were looking for upon arrival rather than somewhere to keep dry. In fast, a shower or two may have been welcomed on this occasion!
Invicta captain Ian Gayle went through a pre-match fitness test in the sun but was eventually deemed not quite ready for his return meaning Invicta fielded an unchanged line up from the 4-0 FA cup victory at Hartley Wintney. While Gayley didn’t quite make it, left back Makhosini Ryan-Khanye returned to the squad on the bench, alongside goalkeeper Joshua Strizovic who joined this week on loan from Dagenham & Redbridge.
The hosts got the match underway with Invicta kicking towards the covered terrace where supporters of both club mixed, not unusual at The Dripping Pan although perhaps a few more home supporters decided against making the walk around the pitch to stand in the sunshine for the first half.
It was those supporters in the shade who got the best view of the first real action of the match in the 10th minute as Jordon Ababio hit a left footed effort from outside the box that goalkeeper Nathan Harvey had to watch all the way but proved to be a fairly comfortable save for the man on loan from Gillingham.
A few minutes later the hosts were awarded a free kick right in front of their dugout following a collision between Scott Heard and Ryan Gondoh that caused the Lewes manager to rise from his water cooler for the first time of the afternoon. Archie Tamplin, son of former Billericay Town owner and manager Glenn Tamplin, delivered the set piece but Joe Coleman in the Invicta goal saw it comfortably out for a goal kick.
Tamplin then provided a much better ball as he got in behind and cut back to Tommy Wood inside the six yard box but the striker’s effort hit the far post and headed to safety.
Invicta had a set piece of their own in the 20th minute as a Kane Penn effort from just outside the box was deflected wide for a corner but Andy Drury was adjudged to have committed a foul as he challenged at the back post.
As we approached the halfway stage of the first half, Lewes top goalscorer Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala got his first sight on goal of the afternoon, cutting in from the left flank but firing high over the goal and the terrace behind it.
Lewes began to look as though they may get into their stride. A quick move from back to front with captain Will Salmon finding Gondoh who in turn fed a through ball for Wood opened up Invicta but Callum Davies reacted quickly and timed a sliding challenge to perfection to deny Wood a shot on goal from a tight angle.
From the resulting corner Gondoh dribbled the ball inside and along the edge of the penalty area before unlocking an effort that stung the palms of Coleman for the first time. The resulting corner came to nothing before the referee called for the first water break of the afternoon.
A few minutes after the restart another short corner allowed Gondoh to cross from a tight angle but Coleman claimed it comfortably before setting Invicta on the attack, Ababio linked with Drury before driving into the Lewes half and playing the ball into Olutade who fed it back to David Smith to unleash an effort from distance that thundered off the Lewes crossbar.
Smith would not have to wait long to see his name on the scoresheet. A late Tamplin challenge on Scott Heard on the halfway line brought him the first booking of the afternoon and from the free kick Invicta took the lead. Drury received the ball back from Olutade and attempted a ball over the top of the Lewes defence into Heard, Gondoh rose high to cut the ball out but his header dropped to Smith just inside the box. Invicta’s number 9 held off his man and spun onto his left foot to unleash an effort inside the far post and give Invicta the lead.
Smith was involved again minutes later as Invicta doubled the advantage. A bouncing ball was headed from the centre spot into Invicta’s centre forward who held off his defender to find Olutade. The number 10 fed the ball wide right to Ababio and joined Smith in the box, making a run to the near post to beat his man to the fierce cross and turn it home for his 4th of the season.
The teams retreated to the relative sanctuary of the dressing rooms (trust us, it wasn’t exactly cool in there either!) at half time with a 2 goal lead over the previously unbeaten Rooks, with supporters having to make the decision as to weather to attempt to tackle the bar queues before making the journey to the far end of the ground. As the second half got underway plenty of black and amber resided behind the goal although plenty more preferred the shade of the stand.
It took roughly 8 minutes of the second half for any goalmouth action although a tame shot from distance was no test for Coleman. Invicta responded quickly as Olutade received the ball in the box with his back to goal and spun to get off a left footed effort that flew just wide of the far post.
Fullback Freddy Barton picked up Invicta’s first booking of the afternoon as both he and Scott Heard went into a challenge by the Invicta dugout, it appeared Heard got the ball but Barton got the man.
Invicta gave Lewes a warning that they were looking to kill the game off on the counter attack as Olutade was gifted a sloppy pass and sprung forward, finding Kane Penn on the overlap who delivered a low cross to the back post that eluded Smith before being turned over by Ababio at full stretch.
The young winger then immediately made way for Ira Jackson Jr to come on with 25 minutes left to play and it proved to be the perfect substitution from Mev & Edgy. Jackson had dropped deep on the right as Invicta defender but he sprang quickly up the line after the ball was given to Ade Cole, who found his winger with a perfect pass. Jackson fed the ball inside to Smith in the Lewes D but dropped wide of the defence as they looked to prevent a shot from the goalscorer which allowed him to find Jackson who fired low inside the near post to score his 50th goal for the club.
If Lewes were to get anything from the match and maintain their unbeaten start to the league season they would need something quickly and they got it through Lumbombo-Kalala within a minute of the restart. The winger was found in space on the left and did well to hold off a challenge from Barton before firing past Coleman to give The Rooks hope with just over 20 minutes to play.
The referee immediately called for another water break which again may have come to Invicta’s advantage over the hosts. Lewes began the “final quarter” with an effort from distance that went high and wide before both teams made changes, Invicta replacing Smith with Andre Coker in the frontline.
From then on Invicta would spend the majority of the remaining minutes cooling down in the shade provided by the stand behind Joe Coleman’s goal. Coleman, Moses and Davies would surely have been thankful that Joe Taylor no longer wears the Lewes number 9 shirt as they dealt with crosses from corners and open play. Former Gillingham man Chris Whelpdale was the man on the end of 3 half chances, sending a short on the turn and 2 headers wide of Joe Coleman’s right hand post.
With a couple of minutes to go, substitute Ryan-Khanye picked up a booking after kicking the ball to the Lewes keeper after the offside flag had been raised against him while in stoppage time Lewes captain Will Salmon completed the card count for a challenge on Coker as the Invicta forward looked to get a run at his central defensive partner.
So as Freddy Barton cleared the ball down the right flank in the 97th minute the whistle blew to cheers from the minority of the 992 in attendance. Invicta with a 3rd league win of the season and with 3 wins from 4 matches away from home in league and cup, heading towards a pair of Kent derbies, hosting Chatham Town on Tuesday evening in the Kent Senior Cup before and FA Cup trip to Margate on Saturday 16th.