Another Draw For Boro at Whitehawk
Eastbourne Borough had to settle for a single point in the Sussex Derby on Tuesday - their fourth draw in six National South games - when battling Whitehawk struck late to snatch a 1-1 draw.
By Kevin Anderson
Mid-way through the second half, it had seemed to be going to plan. Eastbourne had tamed the Hawks' attacking threats and - after missing some golden chances in the first half - they had finally taken the lead. Mark Hughes, who enjoyed his usual role in the team's driving seat, had just scored his usual goal, and Borough only needed to see out the final phase of the game.
But the home side, desperate for points to pull away from the relegation quicksand, still had the legs and the spirit to fight back, and a 20-yard screamer from new striker Ibby Akanbi levelled the scores on 84 minutes.
Tommy gave a start to Bouwe Bosma in the midfield holding role, and recalled Craig Stone at left-back with Ryan Case on the bench. With Ryan Worrall and JT still on the mend, the side is not too difficult to select, but none the worse for that settled consistency. On the night, Jordan Holmes again looked confident behind a solid back line in which Ian Simpemba and Kiran Khinda-John had the measure of the ever-dangerous Danny Mills, while Josh Hare was quick and alert and Stone was strong and influential.
It may sound like a broken record, but yet again the single point should have been three. Borough were markedly the better side and they might well have had the victory sewn up by half-time. Playing down the infamous Enclosed Ground slope, they moved the ball with purpose and excellent width, with Miguel Baptista and Alex Smith, respectively right and left, both looking quick and inventive.
On 11 minutes, after superb build-up between Hughes and Stone, Smith launched a cross that had the Hawks defence in chaos, and a stretching Baptista met it but slammed his shot against the right post. Then six minutes later, after relentless Borough pressure, Pinney pulled wide on the right and delivered at pace. Romain, who was like a fox among chickens all night, got a slight touch across the goalmouth and Hughes thundered a shot against the underside of the bar. Two inches and two coats of paint from two-nil.
It was that sort of night - and more ill fortune was imminent. On the half-hour Smith raced away down the slope, bearing in on goal, and collided at high speed with keeper Tom Stewart. In the chill February air the ground held its breath, and after five minutes of attention by both clubs' medical teams, Smith was eased off the field on a stretcher with knee ligament damage. It was a huge setback for the talented winger, and a blow on the night to Tommy Widdrington, who had lost his only left-footer and one of his team's catalysts.
On came Josh Street, so often a patient substitute, and the speedy young striker enjoyed a very impressive hour, but the balance of the team had changed and Borough never quite recaptured their momentum.
We reached half-time still goalless, but Whitehawk were the happier team, having survived several manic moments in front of their own goal while creating only one worthy chance of their own - a storming Mike West break halted by Jordan Holmes's brave dive at the winger's feet.
Within a minute of the restart there was a further reprieve for the home side. Nat Pinney broke past the centre-backs and into the box, but was tripped from behind and everyone in the ground assumed Lloyd Wood would award the penalty. But Mr Wood would not. He was possibly too far from the action to be certain that Nathaniel had not dived, kicked a divot or tripped over his own laces - but either way the Hawks escaped.
A disjointed second half never reached the standard of the first, but the Hawks always fancy their chances downhill, and they were enjoying more of the possession now. Substitute Akanbi gave notice of his eager talents with a couple of near misses before Hughes put Borough ahead, smashing in a half-cleared corner from 15 yards. Could the Sports now close the game down? With travelling supporters already living on their nerves, Akanbi's late strike answered that question.
There was still time for a late winner, and the best chance fell Borough's way, with Street streaking away, splitting the defenders and playing in Pinney, whose left-foot shot buried itself in the keeper's midriff rather than the net.
Borough: Holmes; Hare, Simpemba, Khinda-John, Stone; Baptista, Hughes, Bosma (Dutton 76), Smith (Street 31); Pinney, Romain. Unused subs: Carey, Tate, Case.
Referee: Lloyd Wood Att: 324
Borough MoM: Mark Hughes - his third award in a row, but with skipper Simpemba in close contention.