A sluggish start left Eastbourne Borough with too much to do at Sutton United, and despite an improved second half they slipped further down the Conference South table after a 2-0 defeat.
By Kevin Anderson
As on the previous weekend against Weston, Borough found themselves coming from two goals down in the first half-hour – which, as Tommy Widdrington knows, is no game plan. A young, eager but relatively inexperienced set of players need things going for them, not against them, and Borough are not getting the breaks.
The manager tweaked his line-up, with Kezi Ibe replacing Darren Lok up front, Simon Johnson in at right back, and Ben Adlesbury chosen ahead of Jamie Smith in midfield. Playmaker Chris Shephard sat the game out with a hamstring injury.
But cloying Gander Green Lane was anyway not a Smith-and-Shephard pitch, and Eastbourne looked suitably shaped for a more resolute toe-to-toe battle if need be. Other than one very early Sutton miss, neither goal was threatened in the first quarter of an hour, but on 17 minutes the home side struck. Slick movement on the Sutton right, and a whipped cross, found striker Harry Ottoway nipping in ahead of Adam Watts at the near post, to flick a slightly mishit shot past Ross Worner.
Worner, who turned in an immaculate display in what may have been his last game before returning to Aldershot, kept the score at 1-0 with a smart save from Leroy Griffiths, but just on the half-hour the lead was doubled after Anwar Uddin felled Marvin Williams out on the very edge of the penalty area. Referee Mr Quelch initially seemed to wave away the penalty appeal but was persuaded by his assistant’s flag. Sam Rents scored emphatically from the spot and the deficit was suddenly twice as daunting.
Borough’s attempts to fight back before half-time were like running on shingle, with plenty of effort but no headway. Elliott Charles – a model of commitment and energy up front – did well to create himself a chance, cutting in from the right, but his angled shot skewed off target.
After the break, Eastbourne looked a team reborn. Within five minutes, Frankie Raymond’s fierce free-kick was only just kept out by home keeper Tom Lovelock, and then Charles was blatantly tripped with the goal at his mercy – a clearer penalty, surely, than the one Borough had conceded – but Mr Quelch was unmoved.
To their credit, Borough were stirred rather than deflated. Charles was joined up front by an impressive James Walker, with Smith slotting in behind the two strikers. And with Simon Johnson making intelligent inroads coming forward from right-back, a recovery still seemed possible.
But while chances were at least now being created, they were not converted. Charles headed over from Johnson’s cross when perfectly placed, and Walker and Smith each missed the target from decent positions. And as the clock ran down, a highly experienced Sutton side saw the game out.
So, another disappointment for the Borough faithful. There are issues, certainly. The drought of goals and the need to find the right partner for Charles, whose pace and movement can be terrifying for defenders but who sometimes looks a man alone. The need, perhaps, to be a bit more flexible and creative when Plan A hasn’t worked: quite a challenge, that one, for a young team. And the need to keep their self-belief.
Widdrington himself remains upbeat. “Both teams had claims to have won the game, but they’ve put the ball in the net twice and we haven’t. We were on the front foot for the whole of the second half and we’ve created more chances than Sutton. We were on the wrong end of some decisions, but if we continue to work hard enough, we will make our own luck.”
|Sutton United||2||0||Eastbourne Borough|
|Truro City||0||3||Staines Town|
|Welling United||1||0||Havant & Waterlooville|
|Salisbury City||2||0||Billericay Town|
|Farnborough||4||1||Hayes & Yeading Utd|
|Basingstoke Town||2||1||Dorchester Town|
|Bath City||3||0||Tonbridge Angels|
|Eastleigh||1||0||Chelmsford City||Att. 686|
|AFC Hornchurch||0||2||Maidenhead United|