Lewes match report
match report by James Maw
Kingstonian continued their winning start to 2022 with a storming 4-2 win over fellow promotion-chasers Lewes at King George's Field.
Having already won 3-2 at Leatherhead on New Year's Day, K's continued their hot streak in front of goal against the Rooks, who had been on a four-match winning run in the Isthmian Premier League, having only conceded four times in their previous five matches.
Far from looking leggy having been forced to dig deep at Fetcham Grove, Hayden Bird's team flew out of the traps in their second game of the calendar year. After a blistering start, K's went ahead on 19 minutes when Rhys Murrell-Williamson laid the ball off for Nyren Clunis to drill a dangerous cross into the Lewes six-yard box. The visitors could only partially clear their lines and Daniel Ajakaiye was on hand to blast in the rebound.
Barely over a minute later it was 2-0, when Kenny Beaney's corner found Jerry Puemo, who thumped a powerful header past visiting keeper Lewis Carey - a superbly worked attacking set-piece. The two-goal lead was no more than K's had deserved at that stage.
Yet Lewes were about to regain a foothold when Iffy Allen fired home first time after K's failed to deal with a threaded ball into the box, and from that point it suddenly felt like anyone's game.
Lewes were the dominant force in the early stages of the second half, and perhaps should have been level on 55 minutes when Joe Taylor inexplicably found himself through one-on-one after Kingstonian overcommitted at a corner, but Gus Sow recovered superbly to force him into shooting over the bar.
Just as the game seemed to be slipping through K's fingers, they found a third goal. Clunis exchanged passes with Murrell-Williamson, surged into the penalty area, and fired a low shot past Carey and into the bottom corner.
And once again K's found a quickfire second when Murrell-Williamson jinked inside and beat Carey with a bending shot into... well, not the top corner, but into the goal anyway.
There were scenes of jubilation in the stands as what looked like being 'one of those days' instead simply became one to remember.
Lewes pulled another one back with a superb jinking run and strike from Ollie Tanner, but the visitors were unable to find a way back.
"I thought it was a great advert for this level of football - two really good sides that went toe-to-toe and really slugged it out, which made for a really enjoyable game for everybody watching," said K's boss Hayden Bird.
"There are two ways of approaching a game like this - you can play a deep block and try and hit them on the counter attack, but that isn't my way. I want my team to stop them at source and win the ball high up the pitch, but then you've got to be really disciplined in your press and allow them to have the ball in certain situations, then when key players have the ball, press them.
"For 25 minutes we did that superbly well, in my view, but their goal changed the game. At 2-0 I thought they were dead but we put them on the life support machine by giving them a sloppy goal.
"We've had so many games by the scruff of the neck this season then thrown them away - that's where we have to improve; when we're on top we have to manage games better."
Subs: Aaron Lamont, Calvin Ekpiteta, Olly Allen, Jonathon Gjoshe, Mason Whitnell.
Lewes: Lewis Carey, Juevan Spencer, Tom Carlse, Will Salmon, Mitchell Nelson, Michael Klass, Tom Phipp, Taylor Maloney, Iffy Allen, Razz Coleman De-Graft, Joe Taylor.
Subs: Killian Colombie, Matt Weaire, Bradley Pritchard, Ollie Tanner, Freddie Parker.
Goal scorers: Daniel Ajakaiye (20m, 1-0), Jerry Puemo (22m, 2-0), Iffy Allen (26m, 2-1), Nyren Clunis (71m, 3-1), Rhys Murrell-Williamson (74m, 4-1), Ollie Tanner (83m, 4-2)