Borough Plans Go West at Weston
The long haul westwards proved fruitless for Eastbourne Borough on Saturday, as they slipped to a disappointing 2-0 defeat at Weston-super-Mare.
Weston is always a tough trip, and five hours on a coach is no preparation for a fixture which, in this case, had little riding on it. The home side have turned over better opponents than Borough on their home patch, and on Saturday they edged a patchy and low-quality game with a goal in each half.
But acting manager Hugo Langton was disappointed with his team’s performance and especially with a listless response to slipping behind. A goal down on 15 minutes, they conceded again just 40 seconds into the second half – which should have allowed time for a fight-back. But it never happened.
Langton’s options were undermined by the absence of Mark Hughes with an ankle injury. The dynamic midfielder has been the driving force behind many of the Sports’ best games this season, but he could only encourage from the sidelines at Weston, where a central midfield pairing of Simpemba and Bosma was solid rather than creative.
The early signs were promising. Gavin McCallum – tireless on the ball all afternoon – took on three defenders in a weaving run before he was unloaded, and Weston responded with a decent Jake Lee effort that was deflected and saved. Hare and Taylor carved open Weston with a move that set McCallum free on the left, but Taylor could not quite reach his cross.
And when the same two players combined smartly to set up Ryan Worrall, it looked as if Eastbourne had shaken the M4 out of their legs and might go on to dominate the game. But on 15 minutes they were undermined by a shoddy goal.
A quick throw on the Weston left, deep in the Borough half, was not closed down and left-back Danny Greenslade lofted a cross which veteran striker Jake Reid reached just ahead of a flailing Jordan Holmes and headed into an empty net. The young AFC Bournemouth keeper has served Borough superbly, and has a fabulous future ahead – so one forgettable moment at Weston can be forgiven.
Actually, the Sports edged the rest of the first half. From Worrall’s low corner, Nat Pinney saw his first shot blocked, and the follow-up billowed too high. Then the Eastbourne striker forged himself a great chance from McCallum’s run, but his explosive goalbound shot was brilliantly touched over by home keeper Purnell.
And on 27 minutes Worrall’s long throw was nudged on by a Weston head and bobbled right across the goal area before somehow being scrambled clear. The Seagulls responded with a correctly disallowed goal, and came breathlessly close to doubling the lead when they broke 4 on 2 from a Borough corner, but Holmes saved the day with a smart catch.
That all sounds quite exciting; but the reality was more modest. The game had settled into a kind of pattern – end to end, and no lack of chances, but little to please the eye in a cluttered midfield. Even so, the Sports finished the half on the front foot. A piece of sublime chip-and-collect skill by Pinney left his marker for dead, but the shot was blocked for a corner, from which Simpemba headed narrowly wide.
But any hopes raised proved false. Langton re-shaped his side for the second half, to create what looked like a 3-5-2. But less than a minute after the re-start, with Borough still getting their bearings, Dayle Grubb cut in from the left and was allowed within shooting distance, to drill his shot under Holmes and into the bottom right corner. Self-destruct button: please press here…
Even at 0-2, there should have been time to rescue the game. There were chances, but no goals. Taylor saw a header saved, while at the other end Holmes produced a magnificent point-blank save from Ashley Kington and then another good stop from Bradley Ash. But the match, like the season, was running out of steam.
Langton introduced all three substitutes as he looked desperately to bring some invention to his team. Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain did conjure some lively runs, while Reece Connolly brought fresh legs up front, and had a goal very marginally disallowed, but it all looked a bit disjointed.
But the third substitution certainly made supporters sit up and take notice. Harry Ransom – still only 17 but strongly built and confident – played a virtually immaculate last 20 minutes in midfield, doing lots of simple things right and looking not the least out of place. Indeed, Hugo finished the match with a midfield trio aged 18, 19 and 17, and gaining priceless experience.
For Borough’s faithful travelling supporters – two dozen or more – there was little to cheer and little to ease the long haul home. The players, to their credit, actively thanked the fans and they will be eager to put things right on Saturday, when St Albans visit Priory Lane. They are young, human and have got more right than wrong in a long season.
As the search for a new manager proceeds, a credible whisper suggests that one application had come in from a young supporter, who wrote that he was pretty adept on Football Manager, and felt ready now to try his skills on the pitch for real. Ah, if only. Football is not a precise, computerised science. It is live theatre, unpredictable and unscripted. It is 5-1 this week and 0-2 next week – and that’s why we love it.
Borough: Holmes; Hare, Khinda-John (Ransom 72), Hobson, Stone; Worrall, Simpemba, Bosma (Oxlade-Chamberlain 51), McCallum; Pinney (Connolly 68), Taylor. Unused subs: Crittenden, Horlock
Referee: Steve Parsons Att: 431
Borough MoM: Harry Ransom – we have seen the future….