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Young Rooks Stay At The Dripping Pan

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Young midfielders James Hammond and Ronnie Conlon have both extended their contracts with Ryman League Division One South club Lewes ahead of the start of the new season.

Both midfielders are now contracted to the end of next season, with an option to extend the deals until the end of 2018/19.

Conlon is a product of the club’s youth development, graduating from the Lewes academy, to the under-18s and development squad, before establishing himself in the first team the season before last.

He scored 5 goals in twenty-five appearances for the Rooks last season, and has played seventy-nine times for the first-team overall.

Hammond was one of manager Darren Freeman’s first signings when he arrived at the club in the autumn of 2016.

He’s scored some spectacular goals in his time at the club, including the runner-up in last term’s goal of the season competition.

Freeman is delighted both have committed their futures to the Dripping Pan: “We want to keep our good, young, local players and Ronnie and Hammo both fit that description.

“I’m sure there’s plenty more to come from both of the boys next season.”

Meanwhile, Freeman’s desire to build a team around local young talent continues, with seven of last year’s youth stars committing to the club for the season ahead.

Nathan Stroomberg, Callum Kealy, Ian Robinson, Jack Whitmore, George McCarthy, Harry Reed and Dean Stewart-Hunter will all be vying for a first-team berth next season, having impressed Freeman during his time at the club.

All seven have made first-team appearances for the club, having cut their teeth in the Lewes academy, under-18s and development squads, and Freeman thinks the boys are primed to become the Dripping Pan stars of the future: “It’s good to get them signed up.

“Several of these lads broke into the first-team last season and not a single one of them let us down. I think very highly of them all, and they’re all going to be giving me selection headaches next year.”

Freeman’s proven he’s not afraid to give youth a chance in his first two seasons at the club. Academy captain Dean Stewart-Hunter made seven starts for the first-team last season, and would probably have played more had he not suffered a nasty head injury at Ramsgate, which put him out of action for a month.

Fellow academy full-back Harry Reed actually replaced Stewart-Hunter that day at Ramsgate, and went on to make two further starts.

Robinson, Whitmore, Kealy and McCarthy all stepped into the breach when the Rooks took an injury-depleted squad to Kingstonian in the Buildbase FA Trophy last season, and were hugely unfortunate not to come away with at least a replay.

Kealy emerged from the bench fifteen times last season, and scored a cracking goal in the 4-0 demolition of Molesey in February.


About Author

Former Swansea City and Kettering Town defender who has been managing the likes of Kettering Town u18s, Rothwell Town, Desborough Town and Wellingborough Town for 33 years as well as being technical director at AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Began in non-League journalism as editor of Team Talk magazine back in the early 1990s and then as editor of Non-League Daily, joining Pitchero to set up Pitchero Non-League in January 2011. Also works for the National League.

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