Borough Return Pointless From Chelmsford
Sports swamped by City come-back
A dream first half, and a nightmare finale. Eastbourne Borough saw a 2-0 lead blown away at Chelmsford City on Saturday, as the home side powered in five second-half goals.
The Sports had expected a tough trip to one of the league’s front-runners, and City were certainly worth their win. They turned around a pasty, unconvincing first-half performance with a pile-driving second 45 minutes which few, if any, National South defences would have resisted.
And yet the Sports had started so well. They had led until the 55th minute, and although City’s late goals gave the scoreline a decisive sheen, the home side led only for the last ten. It was rich entertainment for Non-League Day, but for Borough it was the theatre of cruelty.
Injuries ruled out Odubade and Willard, probably Jamie Howell’s two quickest attackers, but he gave a starting shirt to Lloyd Dawes, who was a vigorous presence and notched a super goal, only fading in the final stages through shortage of recent match fitness. The centre-back conundrum was solved by pairing Drage with Simpemba and slotting in Charman as holding midfielder. Kane Wills moved to a less familiar right midfield role, and Leon Redwood returned with a bright display at left-back.
The action opened with a bit of range-finding at each end. Two of Charman’s looping long throws – a useful extra weapon in Borough’s armoury – caused brief alarm in the City box, but both were cleared. Then a Chelmsford free-kick was headed well over by centre-half Mickey Spillane. But the phoney war did not last long.
On six minutes striker Lee Barnard was penalised for fouling Matt Drage as he muscled through, ruining a decent scoring chance for Chris Dickson in the process. Within a minute, Barnard had felled Drage, launching himself forearm first into the centre-back. Melbourne Park held its breath as referee Will Finnie paced across: a yellow card looked a certainty, a red just a possibility. But as the home crowd bayed their derision at the blameless Drage, the referee copped out. Sources close to Mr Finnie later suggested that he felt it was too early in the game for drastic action.
Five minutes later Chelmsford did earn a yellow in the person of Craig Braham-Barrett, who hurdled Kiran Khinda-John’s stretching tackle and was booked for simulation.
In between these altercations, a football match was taking shape, but slowly. Watching from the distance of the huge, clanking metal grandstand, there is plenty to take in at the Melbourne Stadium, and among the supporting cast the club has an absolute legion of ball-kids. This week the Under-9 girls were evidently on the rota, sitting three to a stool all around the vast athletics track. On the day, a “legion” was not quite the right collective noun – a “fumble” might be more apt, for the ball regularly bobbed in and out of their hands on the way back into play while players patiently waited.
But gradually – after the early card tricks and the junior juggling – the main event took over. And the Sports, far from over-awed, silenced about 750 of the 785 crowd with an opening goal. On 19 minutes Gavin McCallum, astutely switched by Jamie from left to right flank a minute earlier, swerved infield and struck a curling left-footer which beat both defence and keeper Sam Beasant, but was possibly missing the back post until Jamie Taylor darted in with his unfailing striker’s instinct and steered it into the net.
Chelmsford’s response had plenty of bluster to match the windy conditions, but their passing was sloppy, and their many efforts on goal were seldom clinical and mostly grapeshot-effect. Their one proper shot on target in the first half, from a slicing left-wing move, was drilled by Barnard straight into Bailey Vose’s arms.
The Sports did survive three corners in quick succesion, but the next scoring chance came at the home end, just on the half-hour. Wills neatly skipped a challenge and combined with Dawes to send Taylor speeding clear, and JT’s excellent strike looked a goal all the way until Beasant pulled out a brilliant sprawling save.
The pace and temperature were now on the rise, and a minute later Barnard collected the yellow card which he had escaped earlier – for a foul, needless to say, on Matt Drage. But for Mr Finnie’s earlier leniency, the City number nine would have been heading off for his shower.
Half-time approached, and on 44 minutes another yellow: Vose was judged to be time-wasting with the ball in his hands, while Drage was tying a bootlace! Whatever time was added on, however, worked to Borough’s advantage. At the hub of Borough’s midfield, Gary Charman had been influential, and his interception and pass sent Dawes (pictured) racing clear past a heavy-legged central defence, round the keeper, and triumphantly netting a second goal for the Sports.
Few would have predicted the forty-five minutes which followed. After a brief false-start kick-off – because one of the ball-girls was still trotting across the pitch – the Clarets quickly seized the initiative. The Sports had lost McCallum to a calf injury, replaced by a game and enterprising Will Hendon, but the slight change of shape did them no favours, and within minutes City were pressing relentlessly.
Dickson headed just wide of the left post from a long throw, and then on 54 minutes Chelmsford got the breakthrough. Borough virtually claimed an assist, though. Dan Green’s long diagonal cross from the right touchline could have been closed down – and as it reached the goalmouth a Borough defender knocked it down, rather than away, for Anthony Church to pounce and knock ruthlessly it past Vose.
Just a minute later, to a crescendo of sound from the home faithful, the Clarets were level. Braham-Barrett improbably squeezed his way in along the goalline and his lethal cross, tantalising and spinning over the defence, was met by Church’s perfect header from beyond the back post. The scores were level, but the tide was rushing in – and Borough’s defences looked as solid as a sandcastle.
To their credit, Howell’s men hung in there. Another Charman throw glanced off a defender’s head and was just about clutched by the rangy figure of Beasant at the back post. Simpemba typically shrugged off an alarming-looking head injury to rally the troops, and they responded.
Chelmsford, though, were still scenting victory. Dan Green earned another yellow for chopping down Khinda-John by the Eastbourne corner-flag, and then conceded another foul at the very opposite end, but punished with just a free-kick, from which Drage’s huge inswinger was punched away by Beasant for a corner.
Back swung the action, and Sergio Torres produced a sensational goal-line clearance to deny Dickson. But the Clarets revival was not to be denied, and finally, on 80 minutes, they went ahead for the first time. From Green’s drilled corner, and with the aid of a blocking move in the goal area – probably illegal, but nowadays spreading across football like Japanese knotweed – Spillane powered in a header for 3-2.
Within seconds of the restart, substitute Nat Pinney magicked up an opening for Wills to dart in on goal, but with a big target to hit he shot straight at Beasant: a huge turning point. It was City’s turn to defend desperately now, and Torres had two shots in succession stopped on the line – only for the home side to break away through a vast empty midfield. Hendon, covering swiftly, was grabbed from behind by Dickson and with no cover on, the ball squirted through to substitute Kudus Oneyuga, who smacked his shot past a flailing Vose for City’s fourth. Oh, and Mr Finnie then booked Hendon, apparently for his reaction to Dickson’s unpunished grab.
Borough’s tank was just about empty. There was a brief cameo – and almost a goal – for substitute Ryan Worrall, put through on goal by Sergio but pulled up for a handball. And then, with everyone ready to go home, Dickson curled an injury-time beauty, right-footed inside the back post, after a midfield interception had caught Borough open.
With the home crowd now in carnival mood, the home fans – some of the same home fans who had been snarling and jeering at Rod Stringer and his team as they slunk in to the half-time dressing room – were now dancing a virtual conga of delight as Chelmsford revelled in their stunning revival. A game of two halves? Not half.
Borough: Vose; Khinda-John (Worrall 86), Simpemba, Drage, Redwood; Wills, Charman, Torres; Dawes, Taylor (Pinney 81), McCallum (Hendon 46). Unused subs: Ransom, Harris.
Referee: Will Finnie Att: 785
Borough MoM: Gary Charman – imposing figure at the hub of the team