Taylor At The Double As Sports Despatch Concord
A third successive victory, and now seven games unbeaten. Eastbourne Borough continued their upward progress .....
By Kevin Anderson
..... with a convincing 3-1 despatch of Concord Rangers at Priory Lane on Tuesday night.
After early-season wobbles – two defeats and a rash of red cards – the Sports have moved to within just three points of the top four in National South. Two demanding away trips, to St Albans and Dartford, will now test their mettle and resolve, but Jamie Howell must be quietly pleased with the story so far.
With one or two injury niggles, Howell was glad of the depth in his squad. A reshuffled back line saw Matt Drage return at centre-back, while Kiran Khinda-John and Gavin McCallum took the full-back shirts – both, in fact, playing exceptionally well in their less favoured positions. There was a first start for Harley Willard, whose startling pace and directness added an extra dimension.
It was hard to deny Jamie Taylor (pictured) his second successive MoM award, with another two wonderful goals. But there were great contributions all over the field. Kane Wills is pulling the midfield strings like a maestro, Sergio Torres never stops harrying and foraging, and Charlie Harris gets stronger and more assertive with every game. And keeper Bailey Vose is master of his area.
A chill, mizzly evening – the first time this season that the Sports have played in the rain – kept the crowd down to a disappointing 436, but those who stayed away missed an eventful match which was anything but drab. All four goals were crackers, there were several near misses at either end, and the tacital battle was engrossing – virtually two or three matches in one.
A Jekyll-and-Hyde Concord began the game like the infantry behind the sandbags – with all the wariness of a team terrified of defeat. Then their smothering defensive plan was blown away by two terrific Eastbourne goals, and the game changed dramatically after half-time as the Essex visitors suddenly found a new energy and boldness to pull a goal back. But the Concord attacking phase was more of a squall than a storm, and it petered out as Borough regained control to see the game out.
Those early minutes saw the Beachboys sitting deep, rarely sending more than three players over half-way, and starting to frustrate Borough. Willard was seeing plenty of ball on the left flank but his crosses were not finding the strikers, and by midway through the half the Sports had only two Harris efforts – a low scudding shot past the left post and a header from distance – to show for all their possession.
But Harris himself was the man to breach the barricade. On 25 minutes Willard darted in from the right touchline and fed Nat Pinney, whose lovely touch took just enough pace off the pass to set up Harris for a belter of a shot from just outside the box, to beat Louis Wells’ despairing dive.
If one goal was not enough to change the Concord tactics, how about a second? Step up Jamie Taylor. The fans’ favourite has had boots of fire this season, and within four minutes he had doubled the lead with a sensational 30-yarder, swerving over the stretching keeper and dipping just under the bar into the top corner.
Concord, their plans now completely dismantled, responded with two or three decent attacking moves before the break. The excellent Steve Cawley, who led his side like an Olympic torch-bearer all night, hit a sweet volley just wide of the right post from a knockdown by lanky frontman Jordan Cox, and then the two strikers reversed roles as Cawley set up a great chance which Cox blasted high over the Mick Green Stand.
At half-time Simpemba replaced Charman in the back four and soon found himself marshalling the Borough defence against a real Concord onslaught. Where early in the game the Beachboys had stood off and conceded midfield, they were now chasing down everything and pinning Eastbourne back. Cawley raced through and saw his shot athletically beaten away by Vose, and then on 53 minutes the Concord talisman got his reward, onside by a jersey’s width as he sped clear between two defenders and picked his spot early past the advancing Vose for 2-1.
A little test of nerves, then, and the Sports responded impressively. Willard was played through by Pinney to win a corner, and met the flag kick with a crashing shot that Wells just stopped on the line, and on 57 minutes Eastbourne restored the two-goal cushion. Vose’s massive free-kick found Taylor, whose immaculate control and turn left his marker for dead. A glance, a searing strike across the keeper and it was déjà vu all over again. Who needs Neymar?
And if you are a tiring defender a long way from home, the least welcome sight is a Yemi Odubade, fresh off the bench and full of those bursting runs that Borough veterans recall from a decade ago. Yemi was inside, outside, everywhere, and his canny movement set Willard free to race in on goal and crack a low shot, which Wells only kept out with the save of the night. Other chances came and went, and there was time for a Ryan Worrall screamer which left the angle of post and crossbar shuddering.
But the result was no longer in doubt. Howell’s men still have a long season ahead, and still some learning curves to climb. But they are full of exciting football, and the fans are lapping it up.
Borough: Vose; Khinda-John, Charman (Simpemba 46), Drage, McCallum; Harris(Worrall 78), Wills, Torres; Willard, Pinney (Odubade 64), Taylor. Unused subs: Horlock, Redwood.
Referee: a very competent Aji Ajibola Att: 436
Borough MoM: Jamie Taylor with another two super-strikes