March to the Arch Begins in Victory
...but Carshalton play full part in seven-goal thriller
The first leg of Eastbourne Borough’s March to the Arch began with a stroll and ended with a scramble in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Carshalton Athletic at Priory Lane on Saturday.
The Sports led the FA Cup third qualifying tie for most of the game, with a three-goal cushion for much of the second half, but the eager Surrey visitors would not lie down, and they came within a crossbar’s width of forcing a replay in the frantic final minutes.
Once supporters had regained their breath, they were looking back on an odd, eventful afternoon. Like a satnav gone haywire, it had no clear route or even destination, and more than once it veered off the course we were expecting. At the final whistle, Borough had battled through to a victory that seemed almost a defeat – but they still had a handsome prize cheque of £4,500 and a place on Monday’s draw.
Carshalton arrived at the Lane unbeaten all season, and leading the Bostik South table. Free-scoring, talented and fancying an upset, the Robins were dangerous opponents. They played with spirit, rode their luck once or twice and produced a storming finish to the match. But over the ninety, Borough had done enough.
Deprived of defenders Khinda-John and Hendon through injury, Jamie Howell needed to re-think his back line. Gavin McCallum continued at left-back, the left-footed Leon Redwood took the number 2 shirt, and Simpemba and Charman combined at centre-back. A midfield of Torres, Wills and Harris looked creative and bright, while Harley Willard supplied great service from wide for strikers Odubade and Taylor.
Bailey Vose was called on as early as the third minute, beating away a shot from Antone Douglas, but then it was the Sports who made the running. Yemi deftly played in Torres for a fierce shot on the angle, saved by Richard Ossai, and then Harris was too high with a free-kick from a tempting central position 25 yards out.
And on ten minutes Eastbourne were ahead. Howell has recently been asking his team for better delivery into the box, and Willard obliged perfectly, racing on to Gavin’s ball up the left and hammering the ball low across to the six-yard line, where Odubade smashed it decisively home for 1-0. It was the first of many impressive contributions by young Harley, who adds a valuable dimension to the squad.
Meanwhile Taylor – yet again a key figure at the front of the team – played in Redwood at the right corner flag, and the speedy full-back returned the favour with a sweet ball into the box, but JT’s goalbound shot was blocked by a Carshalton shin. Then on the opposite touchline Danny Dudley earned a yellow card for felling a full-flight Willard, and the visitors were wobbling.
But to their credit the Robins steadied, and Raheem Sterling-Parker burst through an open midfield, cutting in from the left and striking a right-foot shot too high. Then a crucial moment: the young striker, clear on goal after an apparent foul on Torres was turned down by referee James Durkin, was thwarted by Simpemba’s immaculate saving tackle.
That might so nearly have been 1-1, but instead within two minutes the Sports had doubled the lead. Neat interpassing between Willard and Odubade set up Torres, who fired an unstoppable rising drive past Ossai into the top right corner of the net. Pure quality.
Whatever Carshalton’s game plan, a 0-2 deficit in 18 minutes surely did not feature. But within a further five minutes of this extraordinary game, they were thrown an unlikely lifeline: Mickel Miller fizzed in a low ball from the right and Simpemba sliced it inelegantly past his own keeper. When, one day, they put up a bronze statue at Priory Lane to the legendary Borough leader, it will probably not show Ian in that particular pose…..
Actually it got slightly worse on 34 minutes. Simpemba mistimed a tackle on the half-way line and copped a yellow card, probably merited but embarrassingly sealed by Sterling-Parker’s triple salto and apparent agony. The gifted young striker was on his feet and right as rain within seconds, and it was the only blemish on his otherwise impressive performance.
But now Carshalton, just a single goal down, were buoyant and bubbling. Their inventive running up front caused the Sports some serious problems for the next few minutes, and this tie was clearly not over. Or so it seemed. As half-time loomed, the momentum swung back: Harris slammed a left-foot shot into a resolute defender, and Yemi drew a flapping save from Ossai.
And three minutes from the break Borough restored the two-goal cushion when Redwood and Harris combined on the right to launch the perfect ball in, and Odubade met it with the perfect glancing header past Ossai’s right hand. (In a brain-fade moment, the regular Priory Lane commentator awarded the assist to Redwood, but wiser observers on the press bench were on hand to correct him and credit Charlie Harris…)
And just 50 seconds into the second-half, with some supporters still draining their tea-cups, JT pounced on Yemi’s threaded through pass to score with a flashing, unstoppable strike. If the Sports were comfortable at 3-1, then surely at 4-1 they could kick off their shoes and put their feet up. Well, they did relax but they didn’t stop creating openings – this reporter’s notepad has six viable scoring chances in the half-hour that followed. Since you ask… A Redwood cross bashed out for a corner – a Charman header wide – a Harris super shot from a corner, well saved – a Simpemba header off the underside of the bar and possibly over the line, but cleared – a Harris scorcher just past the far post – a Willard shimmy and shot, too high, from Sergio’s delicious chip… It might have been a massacre.
But nobody told Carshalton. A side unbeaten all season doesn’t roll over, and player-manager Peter Adeniyi brought himself on to lead the come-back in person. With twenty minutes left the Bostik South leaders grabbed one back: a hesitant Sports defence, a dodgy bounce, and Sterling-Parker pounced to lob Bailey Vose from distance for 4-2.
Even so, Borough should have managed the game. The influential Kane Wills played in Nat Pinney – on for Taylor – who turned the centre-backs inside out but was too delicate with his chip. And within seconds Sterling-Parker raced clear, looking offside but riding his luck, and slipped the ball sideways for Bobby Price to pop in a simple goal.
Ten minutes, plus stoppage time. Ten tortuous minutes for the Priory Lane faithful, as the Robins tried every which way to conjure an equaliser. Matt Drage had replaced Harris and Ryan Worrall was on for Yemi, but even with fresh legs the Sports were at full stretch to keep Carshalton at bay.
In fact Willard, played through by the endlessly probing Torres, should have nailed it on 87 minutes but rammed his shot marginally wide of the front post with only the keeper to beat. But a minute later Sterling-Parker curled a final effort against the Borough crossbar and away, and that was as close as Carshalton came. Phew.
Borough: Vose; Redwood, Simpemba, Charman, McCallum; Harris (Drage 75), Wills, Torres; Odebade (Worrall 89), Taylor (Pinney 60), Willard. Unused subs: Street, Pearson, Pickering, Ransom.
Referee: James Durkin Att: 438
Borough MoM: Yemi Odubade – led the line with pace, brain and two fine goals