Howell Victorious In Bognor Return
The Sports have made it five games unbeaten after a 1-0 win as boss Jamie Howell returned to his previous club, Bognor Regis Town.
By Kevin Anderson
A smartly taken second-half goal from Kane Wills (pictured) was enough to bring home all three points from Bognor on Monday – and nudge Eastbourne Borough into the top half of the table for the first time this season.
After a spluttering start to the season, with two early defeats and a rash of red cards, Jamie Howell’s side is looking coherent and more confident. The victory at Nyewood Lane makes it five games unbeaten – with just two goals conceded – and Jamie’s team-building project is nicely on course.
Wills, who spent four seasons with the Rocks under Howell’s tenure, was a constantly influential figure in midfield and he capped a man-of-the-match performance on 70 minutes, winning possession on half-way and exchanging neat passes with Jamie Taylor before drilling a low shot into the bottom right corner from just inside the area.
Two matches in 48 hours tested the stamina to the limit, and players of both teams deserve praise, on a stifling, almost windless Bank Holiday afternoon with no hiding place from the scorching sun. While the nation’s elite plan their international break – a mere three matches into their season – the semi-pros in National South are still giving every ounce to entertain. And on wages about one hundred times less than the Premier League average……
They do call it the Nye Camp. Nyewood Lane, pitch perfect as always with its shimmering carpet of green, is an open invitation to play purist football, and the teams did not disappoint. Howell was received with warmth and courtesy at his old haunt, and a big Bank Holiday crowd was rewarded with a tight, exciting game.
With Yemi Odubade still sidelined, Howell made two changes from Saturday’s line-up. Kiran Khinda-John took over from Gary Charman at centre-back, and Ryan Worrall started in midfield ahead of Charlie Harris. But the shape and style were unchanged, and there was more fluency from the start.
Apart from a 15-minute spell at the start of the second half, Borough dominated the game and dictated play. But for some near misses and some heroic Rocks defending, they might have been out of sight by half-time. Gavin McCallum’s control and footwork on the left flank was mesmerising, but in truth the whole Borough team looked confident and upbeat.
After a couple of early chances, McCallum’s direct free-kick from the D was touched round the right post by Dan Lincoln. The Rocks keeper was soon in action again with a splendid double save, palming away Gavin’s fierce cross-shot and somehow tipping the follow-up from Sergio Torres over the crossbar.
In truth, Eastbourne were looking more like the home team, controlling the ball and looking to tease out gaps in a solid Bognor defence. Bailey Vose’s goal was not seriously threatened until 25 minutes, when Swallow’s deep cross from the left found Joe Lea well-placed, but the Rocks front-man scuffed his shot and Vose cleared to safety.
Otherwise the match was not so much ebb and flow, but more of a Borough flood tide. Lincoln, like the boy with his finger in the dam, gritted his teeth for some further heroics, denying Taylor, Pinney and McCallum again with the aid of some brave defending. The best chance, in fact, fell to Leon Redwood – but the marauding full-back’s effort was charged down, and we reached half-time goalless.
Jack Pearce, back at the helm at Nyewood Lane, had sat back and watched the first-half action unfold, but now he was on his feet and barking instructions as Bognor opened the second half with much more energy. Swallow hit one shot high and over, before on 52 minutes Borough had their narrowest squeak of the afternoon. Ollie Pearce cut in from the left and from Simpemba’s attempted interception the ball spun up in a freakish arc over Vose, who somehow reached back and clawed it away from right under the bar.
Eastbourne took the pressure off with a sweet McCallum-Redwood move up the left, but the final cross was too weak. Then Worrall – who had produced an enterprising hour of neat passing – found Pinney with a raking pass, but the centre-forward’s shot was blocked and Sergio’s follow-up cannoned of a defender.
Charlie Harris, replacing Worrall on the hour, made an instant impact and almost gave Borough the lead on 66 minutes, drawing a terrific save from Lincoln and then hitting the base of the post with his follow-up.
But four minutes later Eastbourne finally broke the deadlock. Kane, who had directed lots of operations from deep, broke forward with a smart interception and streaked on to Taylor’s return pass to fire low past Lincoln.
Then it was all about managing the game. The fresh legs of Josh Street, and then Harry Ransom, replaced Pinney and Taylor up front, and the Rocks had only one real chance to save the game – a free-kick from wide of the box, popped into a frenzied goalmouth where James Crane’s shot was miraculously stopped by Vose at the foot of the post.
But despite some brave efforts by an under-strength Bognor, a draw would have been more than the home side deserved. From Vose and his centre-backs, through the galloping full-backs and a well-organised midfield to the tireless front men, this was probably Borough’s best performance under Howell. And there is surely more to come.
Borough: Vose; Hendon, Khinda-John, Simpemba, Redwood; Wills, Torres, Worrall (Harris 60); Pinney (Street 75), Taylor (Ransom 85), McCallum. Unused subs: Horlock, Crittenden.
Referee: Tom Reeves – a highly promising 24-year-old on the whistle
Borough MoM: Kane Wills – with McCallum and Vose in silver and bronze