1st XI - Match centre

Brighton & Hove Albion U23
Eastbourne Borough FC - The Sports
Wed 8 Mar 19:15 - Cup Full time Attendance 359

Senior Cup Exit At Semi Final Stage

There will be no Amex final for Eastbourne Borough this year. In their Sussex Senior Cup semi-final, the Sports narrowly lost out at Lancing on Wednesday night in a seven-goal thriller.

By Kevin Anderson

In the last ten minutes of a game which had swung back and forth, young winger James Tilley fired the Albion Under-23 side to a dramatic 4-3 victory. It was the cruellest of endings to an impressive and whole-hearted Borough performance, after their storming fightback from an early 0-2 deficit, to lead 3-2, had appeared to book their passage to the final.

Tommy essentially kept faith with the line-up which had collected six league points out of six, restoring a fit-again Ryan Worrall to midfield and giving licence to Miguel Baptista and Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain in the wide positions. Some observers may have been imagining the game as bright youngsters against seasoned non-leaguers - but if you took Hughes and Stone out of the equation, there must have been precious little average-age difference between the Sports and Albion.

The gifted Brighton side - all of them full-time professionals whose last outing saw them defeat Premier League Middlesbrough 4-2 - opened the match with a devastating phase of attacking which might have put the tie beyond Borough. Playing very high and very wide, they persistently played in their speedy strikers behind the Eastbourne back line. After a couple of early misses, Aaron Connolly finished clinically on 11 minutes for 1-0 from a left-wing supply from full-back George Cox.

Nat Pinney responded for Borough with a jinking run and shot, but most of the action was still at the other end, where the outstanding young centre-back pairing of Hobson and Khinda-John were growing stronger by the minute against the Albion tidal wave. But even they could not prevent a sublime solo goal on 21 minutes, as Des Hutchinson flicked the ball over the defence, ran on and finished from close range.

But then the tide turned. Within two minutes Romain had halved the deficit, weaving across the 18-yard line and drilling a low shot inside the left hand post. And on the half-hour the Sports were level as Miguel Baptista's corner was fumbled into his own net by keeper Billy Collings.

The Sports finished the half on top and re-emerged after the break to rousing applause from the sizeable travelling support - whose faith was rewarded on 54 minutes. Baptista supplied the perfect corner for Romain to head in through a tumble of players.

With Mark Hughes directing the show from midfield, Borough were now in almost total control. Albion's youngsters, for all their lively skills, looked leaderless and all but overwhelmed. And then on 67 minutes came a match-turning moment: Pinney slipped the Brighton defence and, with just the keeper to beat, cannoned his shot against the left-hand post. Two inches to the right, and Borough would have been on the way to Falmer at 4-2. There is always a particular weight on strikers' shoulders, and Nathaniel has of course turned many games in Borough's favour, but this time was one of those achingly close misses.

Reprieved, the Seagulls clung on, and with a couple of substitutions they dramatically snatched the game back. From a corner with nine minutes remaining, James Tilley's swivelling header - either inspired or fortunate - looped across goal and squeezed into the top far corner. And three minutes later Lewis Carey athletically pushed away a torpedo of a cross-shot from Jordan Davies, but the ball was retrieved by Tilley and fired back in for 4-3.

Eastbourne piled on pressure, and an incredible four times they were breathlessly close to levelling the tie. Baptista's volley swerved just wide of the right post, Romain scraped the post with a superb flashing header, Pinney just missed with a power drive, and Hobson's shot on the turn was just off target. Had the better side lost? Certainly the Sports had given their all in a richly entertaining game, but it was not quite enough. Very best wishes to the talented Albion side as they now progress to the Parafix final against Crawley Town.

Borough: Carey; Hare, Khinda-John, Hobson, Stone; Baptista, Hughes, Worrall, Oxlade-Chamberlain (McCallum 82); Pinney, Romain. Unused subs: Simpemba, Bosma, Taylor, Horlock.

Referee: John Pike Att: 359
Borough MoM: Shaun Hobson - skill and stature beyond his years

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