Fine Form Continues v White Tigers From Cornwall
Eastbourne Borough's flush of fine National South form brought another three points at Priory Lane on Saturday, despatching visitors Truro City with a comfortable 2-0 victory.
By Kevin Anderson
In fact the two-goal margin scarcely reflected an afternoon of almost total dominance by the Sports, and after early goals from Bouwe Bosma and Elliott Romain, they might easily have doubled or tripled that scoreline. But boss Tommy Widdrington was far from displeased.
"We certainly could and should have scored more goals, but the two more important factors are that we claimed another three useful league points, and we turned in an all-round display that I'm sure will have entertained the supporters. I was delighted with our quality on the ball. It was an all-action game, especially in the first half, and it isn't just about goal-scorers. There were impressive performances throughout the team, from back to front."
The manager had plenty to be pleased about, not least his commanding young pair of centre-backs, Kiran Khinda-John and Bournemouth loanee Shaun Hobson, who played beyond their years and snuffed out any Truro hopes of sneaking back into the game. Mark Hughes and Bouwe Bosma bossed the central midfield, and a strong bench came in very useful as the match progressed.
Wide players Miguel Baptista and Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain were irrepressible, Josh Hare returned from injury with a strong full-back performance, and keeper Lewis Carey, looking sound and confident in his first full ninety minutes since December, was rarely troubled by Truro.
To keep the Cornish flag flying at this level means hundreds of miles on the road for every away fixture, but Truro are admirably uncrushable. Two dozen or more City fans, as well as their club officials, had made the long trek to East Sussex and even in defeat, their anthems were still ringing around the Lane several minutes after the final whistle.
On the field, the White Tigers were certainly not toothless. Tall and physical in several positions and full of running up front, they mustered a decent challenge and kept the match just about alive until the very end. Truro mustered a couple of tactical challenges, too, with the experienced Stewart Yetton playing as a false 9 behind eager strikers Tyler Harvey and Niall Thompson - the latter running his socks off all afternoon.
But the Sports were dominant, and at times rampant, and they had created three chances even in the first five minutes - a Craig Stone cross well caught by keeper Rice, a rising shot from Oxlade-Chamberlain, and a pair of corners scrambled clear.
Truro briefly responded with a free-kick cleared for a corner, but otherwise they were chasing shadows as Borough's swift and endlessly creative passing movements flooded forward. And when Austen Booth fouled the Ox on 11 minutes, Baptista's fizzing free-kick from wide left was met with a perfect Bosma glancing header for 1-0. The big strong Dutchman also does delicate...
City won themselves a couple of free-kicks which came to naught, and Hobson and Khinda-John each produced immaculate interceptions to thwart breakaways, but otherwise it was just a tidal wave of Sports attacks.
On 27 minutes Romain's searing run and shot drew an excellent low save from Rice at the right post, but from Baptista's corner Romain rose perfectly to head into the far corner and double the lead with the Cornish pirates all at sea.
And the twenty minutes to half-time produced no fewer than five golden chances to extend the lead. Oxlade-Chamberlain beat three men with a dazzling run but Rice saved bravely on the angle, and then the Portsmouth youngster - revelling in his left-sided attacking role - ran on to a sublime Nat Pinney pass and looked to ghost past Rice, but the keeper smothered the ball at his feet.
Then with a turn of genius Baptista set Pinney away through the right channel and the big striker turned inside but skied his shot to the heavens with the goal at his mercy. Within a couple of minutes Pinney then created his own chance with bewildering close control, and this time he hit the target but Rice beat the shot away.
And right on the half-time whistle, Baptista left two defenders sprawling, cut in from the right and hammered his shot too high with a lot of goal to shoot at. On another day, and without the two-goal cushion, the Priory Lane half-time cuppa might have been laced with frustration - but the thrills and spills had been almost as good as goals, and the Sports regulars were loving it.
Had those goals gone in, then Truro might as well have climbed aboard the coach and headed west, but - in theory at least - their flag was still fluttering. And on 49 minutes came a moment which might just have changed the game. Borough were caught back-pedalling as River Allen's killer low cross came in from the right, but Harvey was correctly flagged offside as he buried the ball at the back post.
After that, normal service was resumed. Romain was getting quite a rough ride from the Truro defence, skipper Aaran Pugh collecting a yellow for clattering right through him, but Baptista's resulting free-kick was cleanly saved. Then Miguel earned another dead-ball chance for a City handball right on the edge of the box, but his chip was too long.
Midway through the half the home fans raised a huge cheer to welcome back Gavin McCallum - his first appearance since breaking an elbow before Christmas - and Gavin's gifted left foot brought an extra dimension to the Eastbourne forward play. Skipping through defenders as if he'd never been away, he cracked one shot just wide of the left post and then, with gun-sights better adjusted, he saw a second swerving effort well saved.
Off the bench for the Tigers came Dan Smith - the "other half" of the Smith-and-Barnes loan partnership which set the Lane alight in the Conference National under Garry Wilson. Ashley Barnes, of course, now leads the Burnley line in the Premier League, but Smith's more modest contribution did boost the City cause with some intelligent prompting on the right wing.
But it was probably a Barnes that City needed, if they were to turn this game around. Instead, their afternoon ended in deflation, Pugh collecting a second yellow and an early shower after a haymaking challenge on Stone. The match ended as it started, with the Sports pressing forward - the fans understandably eager for a final goal, but their manager - equally understandably - sending out a pragmatic "keep the ball" message. There are still a dozen more matches for scoring goals this season, and Borough are in good shape.
Borough: Carey; Hare, Khinda-John, Hobson, Stone; Baptista, Hughes, Bosma (Worrall 82), Oxlade-Chamberlain (McCallum 66); Pinney (Taylor 78), Romain. Unused subs: Simpemba, Horlock.
Referee: Lloyd Wood Att: 539
Borough MoM: Miguel Baptista - supreme playmaker