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1st XI - Match centre

Eastbourne Borough
Chippenham Town
Sat 2 Sep 15:00 - The Vanarama National League - National League South Full time Attendance 544

First Home Win For Howell

Sports Boss Jamie Howell earned his first Home win as The Sports came from behind twice to beat Chippenham Town 4-2

Report by Kevin Anderson.

Six games unbeaten, and now finally a home win. An entertaining contest at a bright and sunny Priory Lane saw battling Chippenham Town surprise the Sports with a twice-taken lead. But Jamie Taylor’s sublime finishing kept things level, before Borough’s superior attacking play sealed the victory in the second half.

The Sports were close to full strength, with only Matt Drage’s sore ankle keeping him out, although there were one or two niggling injuries within the squad, and as it turned out the Gaffer was to be grateful for the strength in depth as the afternoon unfolded. The newest face, Harley Willard – son of club legend Sticky – took his seat on a bench that offered more experience and options than earlier in the season.

Jamie Howell had felt that the Bank Holiday win at Bognor was his side’s most complete performance so far, but this 4-2 victory built on it. No two football matches are the same – the joy of the sport, surely – and few football matches go exactly to plan. And when the Bluebirds popped in a shock opening goal after 52 seconds, the first page of the manager’s notebook had to be torn off and screwed up.

Or actually not. If you concede in the first minute, you at least have 89 more to put it right, and Howell’s men did not panic. But the live drama that unrolled was to keep spectators riveted…..

Chippenham, newly promoted from the Southern League, had arrived in ebullient mood and with a bullish reputation. In the course of a match which was robust although never nasty, the Bluebirds managed to cop four yellow cards to Borough’s two – the reverse of the scoreline in goals! Oh, and one other memo to our new friends from Wiltshire: if you really are the Bluebirds, and your opponents are playing in red, why on earth do you emerge wearing garish green-and-yellow in a flashy design that obscures the shirt numbers? Hey ho.

But on with the action. The visitors snatched their shock opening goal after two throw-ins, high on the left flank, Andy Sandell cutting in with a shot that was parried to Dave Pratt, who drilled home from ten yards. And the Bluebirds front pair proved a handful all afternoon, with only a brilliant Bailey Vose save preventing Pratt from doubling the lead on 13 minutes when the striker nipped through on to a misplaced defensive header.

By then, the Sports had already had two decent efforts, McCallum finding only the side netting from a tight angle when Pinney played him in, and then Nathaniel himself hitting a shot on the turn over the bar. Meanwhile Jake Andrews had earned one of the more brainless yellows of the season, needlessly chopping down Will Hendon as the full-back skipped past him.

The home side were on top by now, and Taylor levelled on 18 minutes with a lovely finish from Pinney’s perfectly weighted return pass, and we sensed that this would be a game full of goals. Charlie Harris – enjoying an excellent game in midfield – struck a free-kick from the D too high, and then Borough suffered a blow when Hendon looked to pull a hamstring and was replaced by Gary Charman. The Sports took the minor reshuffle in their stride: Kiran Khinda-John, moving to full-back, revelled in the chance to forage dangerously forward, while Charman himself at centre-back was displaying the kind of silky skills that some of us have not seen since Beckenbauer….

But never mind the poetry, the game is about grabbing your chances, and on 35 minutes the Bluebirds swooped to nose back in front. Steaming in from the right, Sandell’s shot seemed to be scrambled away off the goal-line, and that man Charman headed away Andrews’ follow-up, but the goal was given by a linesman’s flag.

It was a fraction more than the visitors deserved, but credit for their chutzpah. What next? Back came Borough two minutes before the break, with a sublime Taylor equaliser. Now, JT sometimes notches the sort of goal he has no right to score. Gavin’s magnetism on the ball took him infield to slip a pass to Jamie in the D, closed in by defenders as tightly as a commuter on a tube train. No chance of a shot, we thought – just as JT was squeezing his inch-perfect strike through the crowd and in off the left-hand post. Ridiculous.

Stoppage time saw two Bluebirds chances. Sandell’s header was too high from a right-wing centre, and then Kaiser Charman stopped Pratt with an expertly timed tackle just inside the box.

2-2, then, and the match was perfectly poised for a cracking second half. The visitors were first to threaten, with one of Sandell’s booming long throws and a subsequent corner. But on 48 minutes they paid for some defensive stodginess: Leon Redwood crossed perfectly from the left and Harris headed past a static defence to put the Sports ahead.

It was a turning point. Howell’s brand of football works to fine margins and it asks a lot of his players: passing with precision, looking two passes ahead instead of one, taking responsibility, pressing high when you lose the ball. But his team is full of appetite, and the results are showing. With Kane Wills commanding in midfield, the next forty minutes were a joy to watch.

On as a substitute, Willard’s explosive pace instantly caught the eye, and when Odubade was also added to the fray for the final phase, it looked almost cruel on a tiring Town defence. Other than a brief spell of Chippenham pressure, with three successive corners around the 75 minute mark, this was Eastbourne in total control.

And with Chippenham lurching like a dinghy in the storm, Borough poured forward in waves of attacks, but they did not make the game safe until, with twelve minutes left, Sergio Torres knocked in a half-blocked Taylor shot from close range for 4-2. You actually felt for Jamie, who had also been denied his hat-trick by a couple of saves, as well as by a well-intentioned Harley Willard, who pounced on another half-chance in the box, which skipper Greg Tindle cleared off the goal-line. No matter: this was a whole-team performance, not flawless but full of flair and promise.

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