MATCH REPORT BY TOM HARPER
A second-half penalty from Aaron Cosgrave helped Lewes secure a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Merstham at the Pan, reports Tom Harper.
Hugo Langton named an unchanged aide following Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Potters Bar Town, but was able to include Kiran Khinda-John on the bench on his return from injury.
Lewes started the game on the front foot and came close to taking the lead on 12 minutes, as Cosgrave did brilliantly to cut in from the left before seeing his effort from a difficult angle pushed round the far post by Tyla Dickinson in the Merstham goal.
The remainder of the first half saw very little goalmouth action at either end, with the Rooks looking to utilise the pace of Cosgrave at every opportunity but not being able to force Dickinson into any meaningful action.
Lewes were dealt a blow just before the break as Bouwe Bosma was forced off injured after taking a number of knocks during the first half. Khinda-John was introduced in his place, which saw the Rooks revert to a back five.
Despite this, the visitors came close to taking the lead in first-half injury-time, with Jack Leahy latching onto a long ball forward before sending his attempted lob just over the bar.
The early stages of the second half saw plenty of endeavour from both sides but both goalkeepers remained relatively untroubled, a long-range effort from Joedan Gugas-Cowin that was always rising over the bar being the closest either side came to taking the lead during the first few minutes of the half.
The game’s key moment occurred on 59 minutes, as Cosgrave got in behind the Merstham defence down the right-hand channel before being clipped by Bertie Lloyd, with referee Will Briers pointing to the spot after judging the foul to have been committed just inside the area.
Angry protests followed from several visiting players, with Calvin Ekpiteta shown a second yellow card for something he said to the officials.
Despite a delay of several minutes, Cosgrave kept his cool to blast his penalty to Dickinson’s right and into the bottom corner to give the Rooks the lead on 63 minutes.
This goal galavanised Lewes, who played arguably their best football of the game at this point, moving the ball quickly through midfield and always looking dangerous in the final third.
Having conceded a late equaliser against ten men on Saturday though, some nerves crept in during the final ten minutes as Merstham saw a lot more of the ball and forced a number of corners.
The closest they came to an equaliser saw Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke forced into a smart save to help a Leahy free-kick round the post in the first minute of injury-time.
Lewes saw out the remainder of injury-time relatively comfortably to record their second successive home win and make it four games unbeaten.
Lewes: Stroomberg-Clarke, Walsh, Beresford, Bosma (Khinda-John 44), Wakley, Frimpong, Bolarinwa (Santos 64), Arthurs, Cosgrave (Owusu-Nepaul 89), Blewden, Conlon.
Unused Sub: Redwood.
Merstham: Dickinson, Mensah, Mason, Calucane, Patterson-Bohner (Healy 68), Lloyd, Gugas-Cowin (Davies 64), Bolton, Ekpiteta, Leahy, Monga (Mills 78).
Unused Subs: Morin, Cascoe.
Sent off: Ekpiteta.
Referee: Will Briers