Poor. Disjointed, soporific, anonymous, inert, passionless, ruddlerless, thoughtless and lacking in ambition.
This was so disappointing. Perhaps there had been such momentum. The trip to Carlisle, the buzz on Tuesday night. Even sitting in a pub in Lewes at 1pm chatting to fans. There was a real sense of optimism. There must have been a hundred fans on the terrace. The team came to warm up and it was significant that even those not on the bench warmed up. Clearly team cohesion is at a high.
Lewes are in a parlous state. Up for sale and have lost the last four on the bounce.They couldn’t even print a programme. They even started with a defensive 4-5-1 formation: however four minutes into the game and Antony Barness sent a ball across to Scott Taylor. Gavin Dayes - asleep and flat footed - let another ex-Blue in, and nipped around David Button to put the Rooks in the lead.
There was no need for Grays to panic and they set about playing a structured game but ball after ball went astray. Every player seemed reluctant to run at and attempt to pass the Lewes defence.
Perhaps the cracks up front were papered over against Oxford. For 43 minutes last week, McCollins and Forrester showed very little understanding, and exactly the same happened at The Dripping Pan. Unfortunately, this time, Lewes managed to get 2-0 up before the 43rd minute. In fact, ominously in the light of the replay, McCollins limped off in the 43rd minute.
Forrester looks like he is learning on the job and this may not be the time for an apprenticeship. This was clearly frustrating boss Wayne Burnett who, perplexed by their total lack of fusion, threatened to take one of them off. McCollins' injury made that decision for him.
The team couldn’t seem to form a coherent attack. Sam Sloma went onto the right and Ishmael Welsh onto the left but with Sloma roaming around the pitch, this left the right flank empty. As the team attacked, their was no outlet on that side. Welsh had frustratingly reverted to an allergy to the dead ball line.
Things got worse in the 35th minute when Jamie Stuart tripped up the swift Wheeler in the box. Michael Standing fired in the second from the spot.
The second half was better but they continued to play like strangers. Jamie Slabber simply couldn’t get into the game and certainly no-one was helping.
It was glaringly obvious that the adrenalin was not flowing and that the mental and physical focus was on next Saturday, possibly winning, possibly beating Crewe, possibly drawing Man Utd in the 3rd Round etc etc etc. It happens. Look at Millwall in 2004. Comfortably in a play-off place, they reach the FA Cup Final. They lose 4-0, they suffer a terrible run, finish out of the running and are relegated next season.
The second half just seemed to pass the team by. Barry Cogan was becoming increasingly frustrated but never really linked up play or got others into the game. Nobody showed an ability to change the game or drive the team forward. That could be said of everyone including Stuart Thurgood who after an early passionate display seemed to play within himself.
The worst culprit was Gavin Dayes who in one week has turned from Alan Hansen to Ramon Vega. He caused the first goal and may well have caused Jamie Stuart to have to keep one eye on him all game. The midfield gave very little supply to the attack who were witless and one dimensional.
This was not about the team not trying. It was simply a poor performance and how you get away with it against Oxford and are exposed against Lewes.
Let’s be fair to Lewes: Taylor, Standing and Wheeler played well. Captain Culip had Forrester in his pocket and marshalled his back line very well.
In the midst of a recession, who knows who will be in existence at the end of the season? This is all about survival: economically and in the Blue Square Premier.
Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report