|The Official website of Dover Athletic Football Club | Team Guide - Information about Lewes
Telephone Number: 01273 472100
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Official Website: www.lewesfc.com
Season 2004-5 was another year of major achievement for the Rooks as they took up their position in the newly-formed Nationwide Conference South.
Having jumped two divisions via the play-offs the previous year, Lewes were widely tipped to struggle in the Conference feeder division. In fact, the team was never out of the top half of the table, and a final placing of fourth was vindication of manager Steve King's pre-season confidence. If there was a sour note, the it was the decision by the Conference to exclude the club from the play-offs due to ground development issues.
In King's first season in charge in 2003-4, the team won both the Isthmian League Division 1 South and then a series of three play-off matches within a week to gain promotion to the newly formed Nationwide Conference South, thus continuing to build on the dramatic progress seen at the club since 2000, when the team finished a lowly 7th in the Isthmian 3rd Division. Successive promotions to Division Two and Division One followed in 2001 and 2002 under the management of Jimmy Quinn and Billy Nixon, and in 2003 the team missed out on a hat-trick of league successes when they were beaten into 3rd place in Division 1 South by just 2 goals.
The Club was formed following a meeting at The Royal Oak pub in 1885. Green shirts were worn for the first eight years of competition, designed to reflect the scenery of the surrounding South Downs. Red and black became the colours of choice in 1893 and have remained so to the present day. It is unclear how long the Dripping Pan had been used for football matches prior to this, though the ground itself had been used by the people of Lewes as a centre for recreation as far back as records exist.
The original purpose of the ground is unclear, although local legend suggests that it was part of a salt-making industry run by monks from the adjacent Cluniac Priory, the ruins of which can still be seen from the ground. The spoil from the excavation forms the Mount behind the Clubhouse and both structures appear in the very earliest maps of Lewes in 1745. Indeed, the Dripping Pan may merely be the excavation pit for the Mount itself, which has been suggested as the original 'temporary' motte and bailey fortress constructed by William the Conqueror's ally, William de Warenne before he developed Lewes Castle on higher ground. An archaeological survey during construction of the new terrace failed to reveal any further insights into either the purpose or the age of the ground itself.
The early years of the Club produced only mediocre results and successes were few and far between. The championship of the Mid Sussex League was won twice prior to World War I and in 1920 Lewes became founder members of the Sussex County League finishing a discouraging second from bottom first time out. The other sides making up the new league were: Worthing - who won the championship - Vernon Athletic of Brighton, Eastbourne, Brighton & Hove Amateurs, Corps of Signals, Rock-a-Nore, Chichester, Newhaven, Shoreham, Southwick and East Grinstead. A runners-up spot behind Corps of Signals in 1924/25 was the first taste of success at the new level but it was 1933/34 before another runners-up place was gained. Another 25 years passed before second place was achieved again, this time losing out on the championship by only one point to Arundel.
In 1962 the town was engulfed in celebrations as the first senior title was achieved with victory in the final of the Sussex RUR Charity Cup. The sixties continued to prove a successful period for the club with two consecutive 3rd place finishes at the beginning of the decade and another runners-up spot, behind Whitehawk, in 1963/64. Just one year later the title was finally gained and to make the wait worthwhile, it was won with a massive nine-point lead over runners-up Lancing. Not content with the League title, a clean sweep of county honours brought the RUR Charity Cup and the Sussex Senior Cup as well. Having achieved so much in County football, it was decided to seek bigger challenges in the Athenian League. After winning the Division 2 title in 1968, promotion to the Premier Division was gained just two years later when the Division I title was snatched on goal average from Boreham Wood.
A further Sussex Senior Cup triumph was added in 1971 but then it all went a bit quiet until 1977 when it was decided that the newly expanded Isthmian League might be a better showcase. A mid-table Division 2 finish in the inaugural season was followed by a creditable fourth, albeit eighteen points behind champions Farnborough Town. Promotion to Division I was earned a year later with a runners-up place behind Billericay Town. The final jump to the Premier Division was never achieved however, with two sixth-place finishes in 1982 and 1989 being the highest positions attained in Division I, although in 1979/80 the final of the Sussex Senior Cup was reached as it was in 1982/83.
We went one better in 1984/85 by winning the cup for the third time and reached the final again in 1987/88. Disaster struck in 1990/91 when for the first time in the club's history, we were relegated. We leapt straight back however as we finished runners-up to Purfleet, but that success was short-lived and relegation in successive years meant that the 1994/95 season saw us down in Division 3. The slide continued and the first season in the basement division would have been our last in the league if it hadn't been for a team called Cove, who conveniently propped-up the league and saved us from demotion.
The Club survived rather than thrived until the 1998/99 season when Jimmy Quinn joined the club as manager, and at the first attempt missed out on promotion by just one place. Off the pitch upheavals didn't do much to help the team, but midway through the 1999/2000 season the current Chairman and Board of Directors came in and immediately the fortunes of the Club began to improve. The Ryman League Division Two Championship was won in 2000 and we made our first and only appearances in both the F.A. Vase Quarter-Finals and the F.A. Cup 1st Round Proper the same year. Following an incredible night at the Dripping Pan when we overcame Mangotsfield Utd 2-0 in front of some 2,000 spectators, we visited Stoke City's Britannia Stadium in the F.A. Cup, and although we lost 2-0, it was a fantastic effort by the team and a great day out for everyone at the Club.