It’s odd to think that new faces sometimes turn out to be old flames; clubs like Lewes where our paths went separate ways – before joining back up. We’ve come up against the Rooks in two very different eras two decades apart. But, thinking about it some more, it ain’t so unusual. After all, it’s almost that long since we last played Witham Town. We’re not here to talk about them, however. And this intro has become far more existential than we’d like.
Who are Lewes?
The Rooks are bone fide vets of the game, with a timeline that’s stretching way back into the late 19th century. The year? Well, it was 1885 if you’re counting. To be fair to ’em, the length of time they’ve been around is impressive. It’s just that what they’ve done with that chunk of time is perhaps less so. For a long time after forming, they stayed within Sussex boundaries to play their football; Mid Sussex, East Sussex and the ‘county’ as a whole.
That all changed in 1965, though; finally becoming Sussex County League champions.
The Rooks took the chance to spread their wings and join the Athenian League. It proved a wise move; claiming the Division Two title in 1968 and Division One crown just a couple of years later to end up in the Premier Division. There they remained for three campaigns, before returning to Division One in 1973. Four seasons later, Lewes decided to move into the Isthmian League; going up from Division Two to Division One after just three years.
Why do we know Lewes?
So, the Rooks landed in Division One of the Isthmian League the summer after we came to life. It meant that, to meet them as equals, we needed to come of age. We’d say that it had to be fast, but it didn’t. And it wouldn’t work the other way round; a dramatic fall from grace would’ve seen them back in Sussex circles if anything. It’s lucky, then, we stepped to it and found our way up to their level within nine years of them making it.
What is our record against Lewes?
If anything, the Rooks’ record in Division One should’ve acted as a warning to us. They’d finished sixth at the end of the 1981-2 season. But this was as high as they’d come in the table. So, it’s little shock we found the 1986-7 Vauxhall Opel League Division One season a bit of struggle. Lewes beat us at their place in our second away game of the campaign; us returning the favour indoors in January.
By the end of the season, we were sat side by side in the table – 15th and 16th; only four points between us. It was par for the course for them and a reasonable foundation for us.
Lewes continued on the same path during the 1987-8 campaign; resting up in 16th when the dust settled. For us, it was a different tale. A draw at BHW in November 1987 was on the level in the grand scheme of things. But things had gone south for us by the time our trip to the Dripping Pan came around in April. Our 3-0 defeat made it five straight games without a goal and six without a win. It’s arguably the run that condemned us to the drop.
Lewes: Boro’s Record
Our head-to-head: P 6 — W 3 — D 1 — L 2 — F 9 — A 6 — Pts 10 — WR 50%
Our last tango: Stevenage Borough 3-0 Lewes, 03 January 2009
What happened to Lewes?
We went down and the Rooks stayed up. But we weren’t away long in the grand scheme of things; returning to Division One in 1991. The issue is that Lewes ended their 11-year run in the division that same summer. So, we passed each other on the stairs. While the Rooks came straight back up, Cloughie had us on the charge and we were heading out the other door by the time they arrived back up.
The Rooks then suffered two straight relegations and spent the rest of the 1990s playing in the Isthmian League’s basement division. The 2000s brought with it a slow, but steady rise; up through the divisions and into Conference South by 2004. Now it was the Rooks’ turn to play catch up with us – coming up to the Conference National four seasons later.
For the first time in almost 20 years, we were back on the same pitch as Lewes. But our dynamic had changed. The Rooks fell well short of what was needed for survival during the 2008-9 campaign; ending up 19 points adrift at the bottom of the table. We stuck five goals past ’em in total, winning 2-0 at the Dripping Pan and 3-0 indoors either side of the festive period. In the end, they went down and we stayed down.
But the gap between us started to widen; us going up to the Football League, followed by promotion to League One in the same year the Rooks headed back down to the Isthmian League. And that’s where you can still find them now. So, will we be waiting another two decades to meet once more? We’ll have to see how that one pans out. No pun intended.
• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Lewes club profile