Grier's Guide to Lewes
The match: Lewes v Kingstonian, Isthmian Premier. Saturday 4 February, 15:00.
The club: Community-owned club who were founding members of Conference South, at our expense, when they beat us in a playoff in 2004. They're probably most notable for being the first club in the country to pay their men's and women's teams equally; the latter play in the Championship.
The town: Delightful historic town set in the rolling hills of the South Downs. Well known for its annual bonfire celebrations which take over the town with an incredible display of light and noise. The different bonfire societies always try to outdo each other - our favourite is Waterloo due to their red and white hooped colour scheme. Effigies are burned every year, with 2022's including Vladimir Putin, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.
The ground: The Dripping Pan, Mountfield Road, Lewes, BN7 2XA. Perhaps the most picturesque ground in the league, with views over the South Downs. It has a large covered terrace at one end and a smaller open one at the other, along with a long main stand and beach huts for hire. The recent book British Football's Greatest Grounds ranked it number one in the whole country.
Directions: A straightforward 55 minute train from Clapham Junction, the ground's then about a five minute walk from the station - go left and then left again. There are strikes the day before, so services might start later than usual. There's a small pay and display car park outside the ground and metered street parking (which needs you to use the RingGo app). Lewes' website warns that the town's traffic wardens are 'keen' and advises visitors to get the train - both to save the planet and to enjoy the town's 'many excellent pubs, cafes and restaurants'.
Tickets: £12 adults / £8 concessions / U16s free. You can buy them online in advance at https://www.tickettailor.com/events/lewesfootballclub2/758301
Our record there: Last season we grabbed a late equaliser in a highly entertaining 3-3 draw. Late winners have sent the Ks fans delirious on a couple of occasions - Paul Vines in 2013 and then Ricky Sappleton in 2015 were the men whose late strikes led to much spilled beer on the terrace behind the goal.
Recent form: On a good run of form with five wins from their last six, including a 3-1 win against us in Mitcham. Last time out was a 5-0 home win last night against Wingate and Finchley.
Players to watch: Joe Taylor has been the biggest Isthmian goalscorer of the last few years. He topped the golden boot table in both pandemic-shortened seasons (playing for Cray) and then bagged 33 in all competitions for Lewes last season. This time round, he's on 22 already. Ex-Ks forward Ryan Gondoh is now at Lewes, having already knocked us out the FA Cup this season with a brace for Sevenoaks Town.
Crowd: Lewes' crowds are among the highest in the league and Ks fans tend to travel there in good numbers, which can make for a great atmosphere.
Drinking: The town is proud of its local brewery, Harvey's, and their beer can be found in nearly all Lewes' pubs. The closest pub to the station is The Lansdown, where Ks fans are usually spilling onto the street as kick-off approaches (though perhaps not so much in February). Most of the pubs in town are fairly traditional, particularly the centuries-old Lewes Arms, although Patch Beer Cafe bucks the trend by focusing on modern craft beers rather than cask ale. Other pubs around the station and ground include The Elephant & Castle (The Elly), which is the best bet for live sport, and The Royal Oak, where the football club was formed in 1885. The White Hart has a plaque to mark that Tom Paine 'expounded his revolutionary politics' there and across the road The Rights of Man is named after his most famous work. A few of Lewes' pubs, including the Lewes Arms and The Elly, feature the local game toad in the hole, which involves trying to throw brass coins ('toads') into a small hole in a table - much harder than it sounds.
Food: There's decent fare on offer at the ground and in most of the town's pubs. Lewes is fiercely independent-minded so don't expect to find fast food chains - the mere prospect of a drive-through McDonald's opening produced an outcry a few years ago. Instead, Lewes features many small independent cafes such as Patch, Carafe Coffee Roasters and Bun + Bean, which specialises in veggie burgers, coffee and craft beer.