Eastbourne Borough FC - The Sports

Langney Football Club was founded in 1964 and entered the Eastbourne & District Football League, competing in Division 2. Prior to season 1968/69 there was a change of name from Football Club to Sports Club when the club affiliated to the Langney Community Association and at the same time a 2nd team was introduced. At this time the club was playing on local recreation grounds before moving to Prince's Park near the Eastbourne sea-front. At the end of season 1973/74 the club won promotion to the Premier Division of the Eastbourne & Hastings League and with it elevation to Intermediate status. The following nine years saw Langney Sports recognised as the most progressive club in the Eastbourne area.
Sussex County League.
In 1983 the club was elected as a founder member of Division 3 of the Sussex County League. This was despite opposition from an FA Councilor who suggested that Langney Sports 'were and would only ever be a parks side' and moved to it's current headquarters at Priory Lane, now recognised as one of the finest in Sussex, covered all four sides, and boasting a 500 seat stand and executive boxes. In recent years the ground has continued to stage the prestigious Sussex Senior Cup Final, and also hosted a Non-League International Tournament welcoming England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales Non-League representative sides.


In 1986/87 Langney Sports became SCFL 3rd Division champions, and completed a treble by winning both the Division 3 League Cup & the Eastbourne Challenge Cup. With promotion to Division 2 Senior Status was achieved and it was no surprise when promotion again followed in 1987/88, this time to Division 1. Apart from two seasons (1994/95 and 1995/96) when they finished in 11th and 9th place respectively, Langney Sports never finished outside of the top four in Division One. In 1989/90, they finished 3rd and also collected their first major honours as a senior club, beating Selsey 3-0 to take the Sussex County League Cup. In 1992 Langney Sports also reached the final of the Sussex Senior Cup, losing 0-1 to Brighton & Hove Albion Reserves at the Goldstone Ground.


In the late 1990s Langney Sports began to be recognised as a force in the FA Cup. Season 1997/98 was marked by the club's best ever run at that time, eventually losing 1-2 at then Dr Martens Premier side Sittingbourne in the 3rd Qualifying Round after disposing of Ryman League opposition (Southall, Leatherhead & Dorking) in previous rounds. In 1998/99 the club went one better by reaching the 4th Qualifying Round, but unfortunately a 1st Round Round tie against Torquay did not materialise as they went down 7-0 at Worcester City. The highlight of the run was a fine 4-1 victory over Ryman Premier side Harrow Borough in the 3rd Qualifying Round at Priory Lane.
1999/00 was the most significant in the club's brief history to this point. Yet another good run in the FA Cup (knocking out Dr Marten's Premier side Havant & Waterlooville before losing 1-0 at Whyteleafe in the 3rd Qualifying Round) was capped by a wonderful League season, winning Division One of the Sussex County League for the first time and gaining promotion to the Dr. Marten's League (Eastern Division). Langney Sports ended the season with 99 points, scoring 101 goals to just 25 conceded, and lost only 1 League game all season. The team finished 14 points ahead of second-placed Burgess Hill Town, who had been champions for the previous three seasons. The icing on the cake was winning the Non-League Club Directory Home Counties South award in recognition of a memorable season, both on and off the pitch.


Climbing The Pyramid.
2000/01 saw the club elevated to the Dr Martens Southern League, competing in the Eastern Division. In a season of consolidation the club finished in a very creditable 9th position with the highlight of the league campaign arguably a 4-1 home victory over Chelmsford City who went on to win promotion. The season also saw the club receive a £117,000 grant from the Football Foundation to go towards further development of Priory Lane. At the end of the season the Football Committee made one of the most crucial decisions in the club's history: the change of name to Eastbourne Borough FC. Since promotion to the Southern League, it had become increasingly apparent that opposing clubs had little or no idea where Langney was (and often mis-spelt the name of the club). Certainly, very few identified Langney as being part of Eastbourne. In recognition of this, and the desire to both raise the profile of the town, and increase the potential for sponsorship, the decision to change the name was taken. With so many of the Committee associated with the club since it's earliest beginnings sentiment weighed heavily, but the decision was ultimately a pragmatic one. However, in recognition of the past, and continued association with the Langney Sports Club; the club badge and colours remained unchanged, as did "The Sports' nickname.


The club's second season in the Southern League (2001/02), and first competing as Eastbourne Borough, was another successful one. Borough ended the season in 7th place, 10 points clear of Dartford who finished a place below them. During the campaign champions and runners-up Hastings Town and Grantham Town respectively both suffered heavy defeats at Priory Lane, losing 3-0 and 4-0 . In addition there were fine cup runs: reaching the semi-final of the Dr Martens League Cup; 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup (losing 0-1 at Ryman Premier Division champions Gravesend & Northfleet); and 3rd Round of the FA Trophy (going out to a deflected last minute goal at Conference runners-up Dagenham & Redbridge). The season ended on a high note however as the club won the Sussex Senior Cup for the first time, beating the holders Lewes 2-1 after extra time in front of a crowd of over 1,500 at Priory Lane, then a record attendance for the ground.
At the end of the 2002/03 season the club took another enormous stride forward, winning promotion to the Dr Martens Premier Division as runners-up to champions Dorchester Town (losing out only on goal difference). The squad proved itself the most consistent in the DM Eastern Division, with two matches the worst run of defeats, and boasting the best defensive record in the League. The club also finished top of the Division's 'Fair Play' league. Sadly Borough failed to retain the Sussex Senior Cup, but only by the narrowest of margins - losing in a sudden-death penalty shoot-out to Crawley Town after the game had finished goal-less after extra time. One consolation however, was a new record crowd of just over 1,700.
Season 2003/04 began with the target of finishing outside of the bottom four in the club's first season in the DM Premier Division. Once again expectations were surpassed and by finishing in eleventh place the club again made history to become founder members of the Conference South in 2004/05, just 20 years after helping found Division 3 of the Sussex County League.


Conference Football Comes To Eastbourne.
2004/05 proved to be the arguably the most memorable in the Club's history to date, and certainly as Eastbourne Borough FC. Once again, ambitions were limited to survival in Conference South and, after a dreadful start that saw Borough at the bottom of the table at the end of August, it looked as though fears of the Club's ability to cope at a higher level were well founded. A remarkable turnaround was to follow however, with Garry Wilson twice picking up the Manager of the Month award, and guiding the team to 5th place, and into the play-offs, despite an arduous run-in that saw them play 3 times in 5 days. The final table showed that only runaway winners Grays Athletic had a better goal difference over the season, and significantly failed to beat Borough in the 2 league fixtures. In the play-off quarter final, Borough turned around a half-time deficit at Thurrock to win 4-2; before traveling to Cambridge City where the League runners-up were comprehensively beaten 3-0. Over 1,000 Borough supporters made the 500 mile round trip to Stoke City for the North v South Play-off Final against Altrincham, but it wasn't to be, and a last minute Scott Ramsay penalty wasn't enough to prevent a 2-1 defeat. League attendances were up by more than 20% with Borough "officially' the 32nd best supported club in Non-League football.


After the euphoria of the 2004/05 season expectations were high amongst supporters, many of whom had experienced nothing but success, no-one involved at the Club had ever been involved in a relegation battle. For 2005/06 Garry Wilson assembled what many considered to be the Club's strongest ever squad and, after an opening day victory at Bishop's Stortford and a good win at Cambridge City, all boded well. However, it wasn't long before a catalogue of crippling injuries began to seriously undermine the team's performances with Wilson seldom able to pick the same side twice. The pattern of what was to follow was set at St. Albans City in early September, where Borough crashed 5-0. The remainder of the season was spent hovering nervously above the relegation zone, largely due to injuries but also some very inconsistent performances. Although Borough recorded a good Boxing Day victory over Lewes and performances generally improved in the New Year, it wasn't until the side won at Welling United in April that Conference South survival was all but assured, a 6-2 win at relegated Maidenhead on the penultimate day of the season confirming Conference status as Borough eventually finished in 17th place.
Despite their League form, the Club still achieved another milestone by reaching the 1st Round proper of the FA Cup for the first time. As one might imagine, they did it the hard way: requiring replays after hard-fought draws at both Redbridge and Metropolitan Police, before a 1-0 win at Hellenic League club Bishop's Cleeve saw them through. Following his performance at Bishop's Cleeve, club captain Stuart Tuck was named 'FA Player of the Round' and received an award at the Final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. Borough's reward was a home tie against League Two club Oxford United. Cheered on by a new record crowd of 3,770, Borough dramatically forced a replay as Ollie Rowland held his nerve to equalise in the last minute from the penalty spot after the referee had ordered his first spot kick to be re-taken. Although the replay was lost 3-0, most considered that the result flattered Oxford and Borough certainly left the Kassam Stadium with heads held high. A spin-off to the tie was that striker Yemi Odubade was later offered a contract for Oxford and signed in January 2006 for an initial fee of £15,000.


The 2006/07 season saw the squad adopt a change in direction with the Management placing an emphasis on "quality' not "quantity'. Quality duly arrived, several players dropping down a division from the Conference National, but recruits were also made from the Sussex County League :- maintaining the tradition of providing opportunities to players who demonstrated the right attitude, attributes and ability. As the season progressed this was evidently a wise move as the side never dropped below 11th in the league, only lost 2 league fixtures at Priory Lane, and went on a 14 match unbeaten run beating then league leaders (and eventual champions) Histon, and Salisbury on the way. The challenge for a play-off place was eventually undone by a hectic 11 games in 36 days culminating in a final 8 days with 4 fixtures. The club finally finished 7th, 4 points off a play-off berth. The club also suffered disappointment away from the league fixtures. Extreme wet weather after Christmas saw several fixtures postponed and an excellent performance at "home' in the FA Trophy tie was witnessed by a reduced crowd at Hastings United, Northwich Victoria winning the 2nd Round game 1-0. The FA Cup also served the club a dose of "giant killing' as Haverhill Rovers defeated the club 1-0 on their own Hamletcroft ground.


Buoyed by the previous league season the club started the 2007/2008 season in high spirits and was to prove a most successful campaign that saw the club progress from the parks of Eastbourne to the pinnacle of non-league, the Conference Premier. An unbeaten pre-season saw the club play 23 league fixtures unbeaten featuring a remarkable comeback at Basingstoke Town. Scott Ramsay pulled a goal back in the 90th minute, the club trailing 2-0. In time added on Andy Atkin and Danny Leach scored to send the traveling support wild and record an unlikely away win. In the cups Boro reached the FA Cup 1st Round for the 2nd time, losing to Weymouth 4-0 and exited the Sussex Senior Cup at the semi-final stage against Crawley Town. The Setanta Shield League Cup also saw "The Sports' lose to Crawley but league title rivals Lewes were beaten 7-2 at Priory Lane earlier in the competition. As the Conference South campaign continued the club and Lewes exchanged the top spot several times before Boro were finally undone by a combination of injuries, suspensions and the transfer deadline, "The Rooks' eventually claiming the league title. However Boro finished a close 2nd and after defeating Braintree Town 5-0 over 2 legs met Hampton & Richmond Borough in a televised play-off final. As ever the club did everything the hard way arriving late at Stevenage Borough after the coach broke down and rode their luck during the 1st 80 minutes, "The Beavers' missing several chances to score with the Boro back-five in imperious form. Nathan Crabb and Paul Armstrong scored in the closing stages to seal promotion and complete the journey from "The Parks' to "The Premier' division of non-league football.


The Pinnacle Of Non-League Football.
The 2008/2009 season was another step into the unknown for the club. However, as before, it was a step that would ultimately prove successful. Pre-season (successfully) came and went before the 1st game at this level was .v. Rushden & Diamonds. Any doubts re: competitiveness of the squad, infrastructure of the club, the approach to only segregate when deemed appropriate, or the support of the Eastbourne public were dispelled by the end of the day. Rushden were a pre-season favourite for the league title but they needed a 1st half penalty and a decent slice of luck to return to Northamptonshire with all 3 points from a 1-0 win. The Boro squad traveled to Hertfordshire for the next game and on this day (or evening to be precise) history would be made as Eastbourne Borough shocked another promotion fancied club to win 3-1, Pat Harding scoring the clubs 1st goal in the new division. The club would close August and start September with a run of 3 wins over Grays Athletic and first BSP wins at Priory Lane over Altrincham and Forest Green Rovers. There was then a run of 8 league games without a win before Stevenage returned to Eastbourne, accompanied by Setanta cameras in mid October. A wonderful sunny day ended perfectly for the club in it's 1st "live' televised home fixture - Millwall loanee Lyle Taylor stroking the ball home in the final minute for a 2-1 win. The club exited the FA Cup after a 1st Round Tuesday replay in the wilds of Cumbria at Barrow AFC before the Management utilised the loan system to freshen the squad, resting tiring limbs and minds and provide a boost to the clubs season. Ashley Barnes and Dan Smith arrived at Priory Lane from Plymouth Argyle. Although the 1st game would end in defeat at Burton Albion the duo would play a part in 4 wins over the Christmas period, including a "double' over Lewes. The pair would play between them 23 games and score 8 goals, and play a part in lifting the club up towards the mid-table position it would never relinquish. At the same time Dan Brown would join the club from Cambridge United. His impact may not have been so obvious or headline grabbing, but his influence on the side and the season would be evident over the coming months to any regular "Sports' fan.


Notable results post the festive period would include another double, this time over Forest Green, a home win over ex-league club York City and an incredible 4-0 win at Woking. March saw relegated league giants Wrexham at Priory Lane, managed by Dean Saunders, a current international "manager', and a club steeped in history of European and domestic competition. They would leave Sussex empty handed as a late Matt Smart goal would see Boro complete another famous victory in what was shaping up to be a fabulous season. Shrewd observers would also note that the win was achieved with only 2 players recruited since promotion, testament to the progress and ability of the players loyal to the club over several seasons. The month would end with a win over local rivals Crawley Town, and a win over a struggling Weymouth days later would all but guarantee the clubs position in the Blue Square Premier. That achievement would be confirmed when York failed to beat Northwich Victoria as "The Sports' were defeated at Cambridge United. The season ended as it started; a home defeat to an ex-league outfit; but the shine could not be taken off a fantastic season; nor the pride felt diminished.


The Sussex Senior Cup proved a happy hunting ground for the club this year, but not without it's own challenges. The club needed to come from behind against Mile Oak at Priory Lane before an away win over Worthing. A troubled Crowborough Athletic stretched the limits of the Priory Lane scoreboard as "The Sports' ran out 11-1 winners, Andy Atkin and Nathan Crabb both grabbing 4 goals and Neil Jenkins also claiming a rare strike. Shoreham were the semi-final opponents and again a County league outfit would give the club problems; equalising in the dying moments of extra time but finally succumbing 5-3 on penalties Dan Brown burying the final ball. Brighton & Hove Albion were beaten in extra time at Priory Lane as the club secured the cup for only the 2nd time, but capping an excellent season.


Boro have historically been well supported in the town, and attendances have grown steadily as promotions were gained since departing the Sussex County League. However it is especially pleasing to note that the club ended the 2008/2009 season the best supported non-league side in the county with only on 1 occasion less than 1000 people entering Priory Lane for a league fixture (and that was during a run of 3 games in 5 days).
Many suspected that the '2nd season syndrome' would see the club struggle to maintain the Premier status. The club recruited during the close season and many inside and outside the club saw the 2009/2010 squad as the strongest ever assembled. The club did indeed have a tough season after a bright start, AFC Wimbledon and eventual FA Trophy winners Barrow defeated at Priory Lane. However a home win over newly promoted Hayes& Yeading Utd would herald a drop in form, 'helped' by bizarre and costly refereeing decisions for 'time added' and penalties, which saw The Sports wait 3 and a half months for a league victory. The side played well and often took leads but were unable to finish sides off. A low point was the FA Cup where Boro fought back away at Tooting & Mitcham Utd to earn a draw before losing after extra time with players sent off at Priory Lane.


The spirit at the club has always been strong and a win at promotion seeking York City and home to Gateshead saw Boro arrive at the final month with survival still in their hands. Victories over York again and relegation threatened Forest Green Rovers accompanied by heartbreaking defeat at Ebbsfleet Utd and a tragic injury to 'keeper' Danny Knowles at Kettering Town left the side needing a win to assure safety on the last day against Oxford United at Priory Lane.


The signs were not good with United having a great record against The Sports but the side preparing for play-offs (and eventual promotion) would end the day defeated and Boro safe. With 6 minutes to go and the scores level at 0-0 Eastbourne Borough, with results going against them elsewhere, were relegated. Then a penalty, coolly converted by Simon Weatherstone, sparked wild scenes and another season in the Premier was secured.

Relegation Comes To Priory Lane - 2010/2011
The Sports 3rd season at National Conference level finally proved too much for the side and the club. Following a great start the season saw the club suffer its first ever relegation after a season ravaged by long term injuries to key players. After three seasons at Non-League’s highest level, in a league now dominated by full-time clubs, Borough dropped to the Regional Conference, the Blue Square Bet South. Cup performances were mixed with a run to the final of the Sussex Senior Cup, the opening fixture at Brighton and Hove Albion's new Amex Arena, where they lost 2-0 to the hosts, but a defeat to Harrow Borough saw the side exit the FA Cup in disappointing fashion.

.... and very nearly does so again !
Borough returned to the Conference South with much optimism for the 2011/2012 season. The recruitment over the close season looked positive, Gary Hart, fresh from scoring against The Sports at the new Amex Stadium in the Albions 2-0 Sussex Senior Cup win, was the marquee signing. However after a bright start the season became a struggle after a shock FA Cup defeat to East Thurruck United in October. After 1 league win in 12 the club parted company with management duo Garry Wilson and Nick Greenwood. The decison for the club was difficult and painful. The decade (plus) of their tenure had seen unprecedented success but the decision was made and Tommy Widdrington and Alan Kimble took the reins at Boreham Wood Away on February the 18th (a 1-1 draw). Their remit was to stave off relegation and this waqs achieved with a game to spare. The only bright point in the season was the Sussex Senior Cup run that ended at the semi final stage - again a shock exit at the hands of Crawley Down, but divisonal status retained the club again looked to the close and new season with a sense of new purpose.

New Start
2012/2013 was a new start for The Sports. A new management team under Widdrington started a season with their players, and a brief to stabilise and reduce the squad age. The league season ended with a creditable 12th place and with statistical improvements all round (bar goals scored). The age was dratically reduced with on occasions the avearage at or around only 21. With these challenges it is perhaps un-surprising that the cup competitions again largely disappointed. An FA Cup defeat over a replay to Hendon (that did at least uncover striker Elliot Charles for Boro), a 3-0 defeat at Kings Lynn Town in the Trophy and another away Senior Cup defeat at Bornor Regis Town completed a hat-trick of 'Giant Killing' exits.

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League Tables

The Skrill Football Conference » Skrill South

1 Eastleigh 40 86
2 Sutton United 40 77
3 Bromley 40 74
4 Ebbsfleet United 39 68
5 Dover Athletic 40 65
6 Havant & Waterlooville 39 65
7 Bath City 40 60
8 Staines Town 40 60
9 Concord Rangers 38 58
10 Gosport Borough 39 54
11 Eastbourne Borough 40 54
12 Weston-Super-Mare 40 54
13 Bishops Stortford 40 51
14 Boreham Wood 40 50
15 Farnborough 40 49
16 Basingstoke Town 39 47
17 Hayes & Yeading Utd 40 45
18 Whitehawk 40 44
19 Chelmsford City 39 43
20 Maidenhead United 39 39
21 Tonbridge Angels 40 39
22 Dorchester Town 40 30

Last updated Sunday 20th April, 10:53