Sports Share the Spoils in Margate
Josh Hare's equaliser warmed Borough hearts on a chilly afternoon at Hartsdown Park, following a "worldy" from the home side...
Never mind the quality, feel the wind chill factor. On a bleak afternoon in bitingly cold Margate, Josh Hare’s late goal salvaged a point for Eastbourne Borough from a game which had almost slipped away from them.
Rock bottom Margate, with a collection of journeymen players but a cavalier attitude, had stolen a lead with a wonder goal just after half-time – but on the balance of play, Borough were the better side and should probably have come home with the win.
The Gate, in fact, lined up with three former Sports – Marvin Hamilton, Chris Sessegnon and Jack Evans. Eastbourne were again missing influential midfielder Mark Hughes – a man who has earned every dollar Widdrington has paid him this season – but Ian Simpemba again deputised admirably in midfield, in a line-up unchanged from Tuesday’s 7-3 cascade against Welling.
In an extraordinary one-sided opening, the Sports could have been three up in five minutes. Miguel Baptista blazed a volley high over the goal, then from a corner Jamie Taylor conjured a smart overhead kick which missed by inches. And the best chance fell to Nat Pinney, skipping between and behind the defence but pulling his shot across goal and past the far post.
But that early taster turned out to be a false promise. A bitter, driving wind straight off the North Sea made control difficult, turned well-meant passes into wayward punts, and rewarded the basic boot over the subtle skills. Margate’s ground staff had mown the pitch in swirling circular patterns like a 1970s wallpaper design, and perhaps the players were feeling just as queasy. Certainly a tight, cluttered midfield was no place for flowing football.
The home side were already showing why they prop up the National South table. Their play was scattered with errors and their attacking moves were pacey but disjointed. Through the rest of the first half they were to create only one credible scoring chance: a 38th minute shot from close range by centre-back Tarik Moore-Azille who, set up perfectly from a free-kick, could only shoot straight at Lewis Carey.
Meanwhile Borough had several promising openings. Pinney, steaming through, was hauled back by Moore-Azille at the price of a yellow card which must have been quite close to red; and from Baptista’s free-kick Simpemba could not quite get a header on target.
Then Pinney sped through on to Taylor’s pass but was offside by the width of a shirt. And another yellow-card foul, this time by Sessegnon, curtailed the lively McCallum, and Baptista saw an angled shot well saved. No goals, then, by half-time but no lack of chances.
The Gate – who certainly could not be faulted for their commitment – came out after the break full of bustle. Simpemba was harshly cautioned for a tackle on Jack Evans, which seemed to take the ball cleanly before the former Sports midfielder catapulted over him with a yell of pain.
Then striker Dean Morgan raced through a gap and pinged a shot narrowly past the left post. And with Margate still chasing like eager foxhounds, they claimed a 52nd minute lead with the strike of the day and possibly the goal of the season. Ira Jackson jinked in from the left touchline, and made himself space and angle for a scorching right-foot shot which arched across a blameless Carey and cannoned into the net off the far post.
Margate were in Dreamland. Success-starved home fans rubbed their eyes in disbelief and then raised their voices to urge the Gate on to what would be only their second victory in 21 games. Now, Eastbourne owed a response, for their own self-respect and for their tremendously loyal travelling support. Easily fifty Borough fans had travelled the winding, tedious road to the North Kent coast – a six-hour return trip for those on the team coach – and neither they nor the players were resigned to defeat.
On the hour, Reece Connolly came off the bench to add energy and physical presence, and things began to happen. Pinney steered a shot wide of the right post from Stone’s probing assist, and Connolly was a bootlace away from converting McCallum’s excellent centre. Then Connolly again, fed by Taylor, deftly beat one defender but was robbed by the second.
There was a goal in this for Borough, and it finally came on 78 minutes. Starting from his own half, Josh Hare found Taylor and and stormed on to the return pass, tearing up the ground and cutting in to strike his shot in off the back post – only slightly less spectacular than Morgan’s earlier goal, and well worth a point.
Indeed, the goal was the signal for sustained Eastbourne pressure. A Carey free-kick played in Taylor through the right channel, but he was blocked for a corner. And then Pinney fed Taylor again, but an awkward high bounce foiled the striker as he shot.
And the match ended as it had begun. In an increasingly frantic finale, late substitute Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain produced two weaving runs, both stopped by last-ditch tackles to deny Borough the winning goal that they probably deserved.
Borough: Carey; Hare, Khinda-John, Hobson, Stone; Baptista (Connolly 60), Simpemba, Worrall (Oxlade-Chamberlain 87), McCallum; Pinney, Taylor. Unused subs: Tate, Bosma, Horlock.
Referee: Aji Ajibola Att: 483
Borough MoM: Josh Hare – another high-octane performance and another good goal