Wings Clipped as the Sports Hit Seven
Another dull day at Priory Lane, then....
In a game of wobbly defending but thrilling forward play, Eastbourne Borough blew away Welling United with a very slightly surreal 7-3 victory on Tuesday night.
Three times the Sports had gone ahead and three times Wings had grappled their way back with equalisers – maddening for managers, but absorbing for supporters of both teams – before a fabulous blitz of Eastbourne goals lit up a grey, chilly March night in the final fifteen minutes. An inspired Jamie Taylor led the way with a hat-trick.
Sceptics might point to defensive failings – isolated errors in Borough’s case but systemic in Welling’s – which allowed it all to happen. But that was all part of the fun. What will really stay in the memory, apart from the game’s see-saw nature, is the enterprising, almost cavalier spirit that created chance after chance. From this reporter’s notes, it might genuinely have finished 13-6….
Eastbourne had a point to prove after Saturday’s dismal defeat to Bath City. Tommy tweaked the starting line-up only slightly, Ian Simpemba moving into midfield to replace the injured Mark Hughes, while Kiran Khinda-John returned at centre-back after suspension. Gavin McCallum enjoyed his first full 90 minutes as he works back from injury.
But it was up front that a point was proven. Some observers had regarded Elliott Romain, so central to Borough’s attacking until his transfer to Dagenham, as irreplaceable. But when your other two strikers turn in unplayable performances like this, and notch five goals between them, the final phase of the season is not looking so barren after all.
The tone was set quite early. Great work on the left by Stone, Worrall and McCallum set up Nat Pinney, whose control and turn left the defence helpless as he gave the Sports a 5th minute lead. Almost immediately the centre-forward might have doubled the lead from Taylor’s smart diagonal ball but he shot straight at keeper Lewington.
The flow was still with Borough, and Baptista raced clear of a flat Welling defence down the right and cut the ball back but Pinney’s instant shot sliced just wide of the left post. The missed chances proved costly, at least in the short term, when the home defence got in a crazy tangle on 20 minutes and presented Dan Walker with an easy chance which he buried for 1-1.
Three minutes later Simpemba found himself at odds with referee Lee Venamore, who was both baffling and sometimes infuriating both sides with some rather random decisions, and the Borough skipper not only copped a yellow card but, after a frank exchange of views, actually passed the captain’s armband to Craig Stone for the rest of the evening. A novel way of defusing conflict, at any rate.
We had a full fifteen minutes without a goal before Taylor conjured a magical feint to leave centre-back Dean Leacock statuesque, and pulled back a perfect ball for McCallum, who smashed a triumphant first time shot to restore Eastbourne’s lead.
After you, Cecil. Within just two minutes the Wings caught Borough napping with a short corner routine, and Danny Waldren headed them level at the front post. It should have been Borough’s turn to score next, but in first-half added time Pinney was foiled by an excellent low save from Lewington – one of the few things that the Welling keeper got right on a nightmare evening.
But after the break the Sports needed only three minutes to forge ahead once again. Carey’s astute kick found Baptista, whose exquisite pass set Taylor free to race in from the right and blister a shot across the keeper and into the far corner.
The Kent side, always puffing to keep up like the joggers at the back of the pack, mustered a couple of half-chances and one golden chance, Waldren powering through a hesitant defence and past Carey. But Shaun Hobson, probably the quickest defender on the field, kept his 18-year-old head and expertly cleared off the line.
Just past the hour, though, the visitors were on terms. A feeble clearance out of the Sports penalty area was pounced on and recycled for substitute Pierre-Joseph Dubois to sneak a shot low inside the left post.
Welling had never been ahead, but they now twice came close, Walker drawing an excellent near-post save from Carey and then Fuseini firing over the bar. But as the evening grew longer, it was Borough who grew stronger. Taylor skipped through again and blasted a rising shot against the angle of post and crossbar, and Reece Connolly, fresh off the bench, created havoc which Pinney should have exploited but could only shoot into the goalkeeper’s hands.
And on 80 minutes it was 4-3 with the goal of the night. When McCallum was brought down just outside the box, Pinney slipped the free-kick sideways for Josh Hare to rocket a brilliant shot which almost took Lewington with it into the net.
Welling, always the sluggish joggers, were now scrambling like hill-walkers on loose scree as the Sports tore forward, and the sweetest of team goals earned them breathing space. Stone’s header set Connolly free down the left, and Widdrington’s new striker slid the ball to Pinney, who shimmied and then eased the ball further right for Taylor to finish. It was that 1996 England-Holland goal all over again…
There was time for a brief but admirably assured debut for defender Harry Ransom, giving further evidence of the young talent now steadily getting its chance at the Lane.
Wings really needed the final whistle now, but Eastbourne and their fans were enjoying it far too much. Right on the 90 Connolly was felled by a despairing leg just inside the box and Taylor stepped up to drill home the penalty.
It was pretty much a goal a minute now, and Nat Pinney completed the rout in stoppage time with a cracker of a free-kick in off the right hand post to send Welling home shell-shocked, and send the Priory Lane faithful home with their faith renewed.
Borough: Carey; Hare, Khinda-John, Hobson, Stone; Baptista (Connolly 78), Simpemba, Worrall (Ransom 86), McCallum; Pinney, Taylor. Unused subs: Horlock, Tate, Crittenden.
Referee: Lee Venamore Att: 402
Borough MoM: Jamie Taylor – goalscoring maestros never lose their touch