Weston Wing Off With a Win at the Lane
It isn't only your chips on the seafront that are at risk of raiding Seagulls....
(With apologies for late publication - we usually try to link in with the video highlights, which were delayed for technical reasons.)
An afternoon which began with moving tributes to Borough's long-serving chief executive Mike Spooner, who died last weekend, descended into controversy as Weston snatched the three points with Gethyn Hill's fiercely disputed second-half penalty.
The moment which changed the match came right on the hour mark, when referee Aji Ajibola adjudged a Harry Ransom challenge on Hill to be worth a spot-kick. He may have been in a minority of one, but the brush-and-tumble took away Borough's momentum, and allowed Weston – who were truthfully second best throughout the afternoon – to snatch a lead which they held until the final whistle.
Notably, Borough's last six games show an exact balance - won two, lost two drawn two. But reverse the debatable penalty calls - against Concord and Weston - and strike off the St Albans equaliser - see below - and then the credit balance would read: won five, drawn one; and top of the form table!. It's a tough old world.....
The Sports had come into the game in good health and good heart, after a decisive 4-0 victory at Poole, and Jamie Howell made just the one enforced change, Kiran Khinda-John slotting in at right-back in place of the unavailable Matt Pickering. The Seagulls, in mid-table but still with an eye on a play-off place, were looking to repeat their 5-1 demolition of Borough at the Woodspring on Remembrance Day.
In sharp winter sunshine and even sharper Siberian winds, the visitors started brightly, pressing high and passing the ball sweetly. But the Sports mostly had Weston's measure, and almost went ahead themselves from Charlie Harris's drilled low centre from the right, with Yemi Odubade a toe-cap away from converting it. Lloyd Dawes, too, was close to giving Sports the lead: Charlie swung in a free-kick from wide right and Dawesey reached it ahead of keeper Purnell but was wide of the right hand post.
Weston's early momentum had petered out, and James Haran and Harry Ransom looked cool and commanding at centre-back. Then on 33 minutes Kiran Khinda-John turned from six-foot defender into nippy darting winger, catching the Seagulls' back line web-footed with a burst forward. From his perfect squared pass, Yemi shimmied, accelerated and shot past Luke Purnell for 1-0.
Six minutes later the Seagulls were level. With the gale at his back, Jarred Welch's powerful drive took a little dip-and-swerve, and as Mark Smith got forearms rather than hands to it, Kenan Dunnwald reacted quickest to score from six yards.
After the break, with the wind now at Borough's backs, the home side looked likelier to nudge ahead. Kane Wills clipped a lovely ball over the top for Lloyd, who was initially denied by Purnell but chased down the free ball, and played it in for Yemi, but Odubade's stunning volley hit the Weston crossbar.
This was Borough at their best, but those tiny margins were thwarting them. The impressive Archie Edwards exchanged passes on a piercing run down the left and released Dawes, but Purnell was out smartly and bravely at his feet. The tireless Sergio – what a leader the man is – played in Harris, who struck his shot hastily and saw it drift wide of the right post. Earlier, the sides had looked evenly matched, and it was all quite easy on the eye, but now minute by minute the pressure on Weston was building. This game, you felt, was Borough's for the taking.
But then came the turning point. The Seagulls had not really threatened in the second half, but a rare break saw the ball played up the Weston right flank, from where big striker Gethyn Hill checked in along the goal-line. Under faint contact from Harry Ransom, Hill's dramatic fall looked worthy of a card for simulation, but instead Aji Ajibola's instant whistle awarded a penalty, despatched by Hill himself for 2-1. No, it almost certainly was no penalty, but the damage was done.
Aji is a thinking referee. His match control is very hands-on and his player management is pro-active. His decisions tend to be letter-of-the-law, and perhaps, technically, it was a foul. Borough were not convinced.
Mr Ajibola does have some unfortunate recent history with the Sports. Earlier in February, he rashly overruled his assistant to give St Albans a throw-in, from which the Saints equalised and denied Borough a victory. But unfortunate is the word. Every referee has a hundred or more decisions to make in your average ninety minutes, and if he does get one or two incorrect, he is merely human. On a fortunate day, those decisions will not matter. On another day, they might change a game. But without the ref, there is no game. Find the player, manager or reporter who has never got it wrong....
(Incidentally, for evidence that two observers can see things differently, take a glance at the WSM website report.... "
Hill worked it to the byline next to the right corner flag, breezed past one defender as he worked his way to toward the box, and as he entered it another of Borough’s defenders took a dangerous swipe at his ankles, scything him down somewhat cynically and to the referee’s credit he managed to see the ‘challenge’ despite a host of bodies in the way and pointed straight to the spot. The Welshman managed to get up after being mercilessly hacked down, stepped up and rifled the ball into the top left corner,,,,,")
In any case, there was still a full half-hour to play. A seething Borough stormed back but, despite losing Naby Diallo to a second yellow, Weston were defending stoutly to keep them at bay.
Gavin, who had again given of his best with some dazzling footwork and inventive movement, switched to the right as Jamie tried all his options. Shaun Okojie and JT brought fresh legs up front, and Weston were clinging by the fingernails.
There were, frankly, enough chances to win three matches. With more time than he needed, a well placed Charlie Harris hit the angle of post and bar on the turn – with the management urging him just to "put your blooming foot through it". (Only they didn't say blooming.... ) Odubade scooped his final shot too high after a super move, and a Torres strike was disallowed for offside. And when Jake Lee floored Shaun Okojie from behind, Mr Ajibola declined to even up the penalty count.
The Sports will look back at some frantic attacking, and some wasteful finishing. Weston were let off the hook.
(Picture credits - Jamie Evans)