Well, here we are again! The first effort a couple of weeks ago was a game which never should have started, and fell foul of monsoon conditions after a little over half an hour. To my eyes Tonbridge were on top, but maybe that was because they were better at swimming than Lewes. At least it was still 0-0, in spite of Luke Blewden’s unsubtle effort to score with a flailing arm, which was spotted by the officials. For those who didn’t see the preview last time, it’s still a good read and the league position of both teams still makes it a good contest!
Like a lot of ancient towns Lewes has a few quirky place names, and my favourite commemorates the deadliest avalanche on record in UK history, which bizarrely took place here on the South Downs in 1836.
Eight people were killed when an avalanche fell on houses in Boulder Row, in spite of warnings to leave. Maybe they stayed put because living in a street called Boulder Row just made them blasé about a bit of snow, when they spent the rest of the year dodging giant rocks rolling down at them. But it’s not the name of Boulder Row that gets me, it’s the fact that the pub which now stands on the site is, of course, called the Snowdrop Inn, which makes this a perfect story if you ever have to try to explain the English sense of humour to a German.
And so to the Dripping Pan, home of Lewes FC since 1885, bar a short break which probably robs them of a record of some sort. Unlike the Snowdrop Inn, the origin of this quirky name is lost in time, but it describes an atmospheric bowl for watching football and, whatever the origin, they got the name right. The Bowl of Dripping doesn’t have the same ring to it.
On the pitch, Lewes are on the way back from a lengthy decline. After reaching the dizzy heights of the National League a decade ago, they slowly unravelled to the Isthmian League South in 2015-6. However, promotion back to the Premier Division last season has been used as a springboard to press on this season, and they are currently one of a number of teams eyeing up the play off spots, although slightly off the pace at the moment.
Off the pitch they have been a successful pioneer of Community Ownership, which Tonbridge Angels have also more recently followed, and could well learn from initiatives such as offering a variety of membership plans, to local and national shopping discounts. They have a bright website with an online shop, e-program and options for easy online payments to their 12th man fund. In addition Lewes have a strong Ladies team, on equal pay with their men, in whose footsteps the Angels Ladies would surely love to tread. All-in-all the kind of innovative approach which has many non League fans chuntering into their warm beer about the merits of hob nail boots, and whatever happened to that nice Miss World show on the telly.
Tonbridge have been in fantastic form this year, including matches where they have had to come from behind to win, although they couldn’t repeat the trick in a flat performance against Merstham on Saturday. D’Sean Theobalds seems to have been the catalyst for the post Christmas resurgence, along with the smiling assassin Chinedu McKenzie and the fine new addition of Tom Derry, but goals have been coming from all sources which is always encouraging, and the settled back four provides a solid platform. Unfortunately they have had to roll away Craig Stone, sidelined for a hernia operation.
Lewes may be temporarily dulled by the loss of Jonte Smith to Oxford United, but a fee was paid so they will have the option to buy in more firepower of they wish. It’s always great to see a player at this level given the chance to shine as a pro. Full back Leon Redwood is also missing due to a long term injury. On the upside for Lewes they’ll look at the possibility of the curse of the ex in this game, as Luke Blewden would no doubt love to prove Steve McKimm wrong for releasing him last season by scoring, with his feet rather than his hands. Lewis Carey in goal is another ex-Angel on show.
Yet another cracking tie beckons in the Angels resurrection – maybe they need to have a word with the club chaplain, because it looks like Easter has come early to Kent! Walkout music……