How would you rate Lewes performance so far this season? You find yourself currently bottom of the league on 4 points. This was quite surprising to us, but is it surprising to yourself as a fan?
Joe Ketchum: Everyone could tell this was going to be a very tough and competitive Championship this year and this has very much proven to be the case with tight games and upsets every week.
I think the table has only just started to take shape with the only team I am not surprised about being Southampton FC, who had a strong debut season last year. Lewes’ games this season, barring the opening 4-1 loss, have all been tight affairs, decided by very fine margins, but with 1 (amazing) goal in our first 6 games it is clear where Lewes need to improve.
However, the past week has felt like a massive turning point in the season, with a late equaliser in the Conti Cup then a hat-trick of penalty saves from Moore, followed up with 2 away goals up at Watford in a big win at the foot of the table.
This feels like a pivotal moment, only time will tell.
What do you make of your transfer business in this window? Happy with the additions, some big losses or still need to add more?
JK: The summer was another busy one for Lewes, we started the season against Southampton with 7 debutantes, in a squad with only 5 outfield players being retained.
We lost some fan favourites and big names for a whole host of reasons; Paula Howells, Rebecca McKenna, Emily Kraft, Amber-Keegan Stobbs and Nat Johnson were all regular starters, so what has followed is a lot of rebuilding.
What that has brought to this year’s squad is youth; the average age of our squad at the time of writing is just 22. This has predictably led to difficult period where the team has had to gel and form relationships and understandings with each other on the pitch, there have been moments of naivety and frustrating mistakes.
What I believe we are beginning to see is the fruits of that hard work. The new signings have al been relatively consistent with their starts for Lewes, but on in particular who especially caught the eye right from preseason is Anna Grey.
Plucked from Ipswich after an impressive display against Lewes in the FA Cup last season, Grey is a very exciting winger, with plenty of pace and skill on the ball as well as being capable of putting in a wicked delivery.
She’s the one that gets fans off their seats at the moment.
You finally got your first win of the season last weekend. Do you think getting the monkey off the back will motivate the team and we’ll see them performing as similarly to that of last season?
JK: The result and the goals at the weekend felt massive. It had started in the 95th minute midweek against Palace in the league cup, where a late equaliser that no one could even put a personal claim to, was celebrated like a final win.
The team hadn’t scored a goal since the opening day against Southampton, so the outpouring of relief was huge. The penalty win, although difficult to see the impact in a wider sense, also felt momentous.
The game at Watford, like every other game this season, was very close and both teams rode their luck quite a bit. Watford struck the bar twice in the first half, Lewes missed a penalty. After the 88th minute winner from Riglar, both teams still had time to miss from 6 yards out.
Perhaps it is this little bit of football luck that has made the difference as the performances have all been very consistent and I would even suggest better than last season up until the final third of the pitch, where we look slightly devoid of confidence.
So I, like many, now hope that after two games in a row of finding the back of the net, that a corner has been turned and that we can begin to kick on a bit more.
Do you suspect anyone will have a breakout season or will you likely be relying on key players?
JK: There are a few players that I have high hopes for, the biggest raw talent we have in the squad is Anna Grey, who I mentioned before, is a very exciting prospect at only 21 years of age.
This is her debut season in the Championship having made the step up from tier 3, a gap that belies its theoretical size. She has hit the ground running, quite literally, bringing pace on and off the ball that Lewes lacked last season.
Another player who has started to shine on the opposite side the last 3 games is Reanna Blades. On loan from Chelsea, she has been afforded more starts in a higher position up the pitch and she has flourished.
Although she is still learning at 19, her energy and attacking enthusiasm has begun to create the chances that weren’t forthcoming a few weeks ago, winning the penalty away at Watford just by facing up her full back and driving into the box. If we can figure out our centre forward position then we could start to see some dividends.
Sunderland fans will see a very familiar face in Maria Farrugia playing for yourselves. How has she done since joining Lewes?
JK: Maria started the season really brightly and is an incredibly talented footballer. However, her energy has out favoured her attacking prowess as she has been utilised almost exclusively at wingback.
Although being encouraged to dovetail with the left winger, we haven’t been afforded many opportunities to see her dribbling at defenders or creating chances from behind the midfield, two of her key strengths in my opinion.
Despite this strong start, I also haven’t seen her in the squad since the last international break where she was away with Malta, only playing the first of two games.
So I suspect she will unfortunately miss this game against her former club.
Who would you say could be a thorn in the side for Sunderland? Who do we need to look out for?
JK: Hollie Olding, who brings her Championship experience from Crystal Palace, also brings with her a wicked shot, the opening goal of the season was a 30-yard effort straight into the top corner.
Although she hasn’t found the net since, Olding hasn’t been afraid to let loose from outside the box.
She scored a fantastic goal against Lewes last year and I am expecting more than hoping, that she will get a few more goals from 20 yards this season. She also has a big presence on the pitch, bringing composure and strength into the Lewes midfield.
It’s always tough to give a score prediction early in the season, but how do you see this game panning out?
JK: This season has to be the toughest for predictions ever! Sunderland have travelled really well so far this season, which can usually be a team’s downfall, a big result against Saints in September springing to mind. The momentum that the Lewes team is building has me believing they can get a result against the Lasses but form tells me they will struggle to keep a clean sheet. I am praying for a 2-1 win for the Rooks.
And lastly, what are your expectations for Lewes this season?
JK: This season was always going to be tough for Lewes, with no obvious team to be considered favourites against, it still feels like it will be long season and the club’s priority must now be to stay the league.
The women’s football landscape is changing quite rapidly and I am just hoping that Lewes can keep their head above water long enough to establish themselves for the seasons to come. I look forward to another cup run like last year’s though, with an opportunity to try and upset another WSL team at the Dripping Pan!