Oxford a Degree Too Good for Borough
Five mad minutes make the difference as Sports stumble at City
Undone by an own goal and a penalty: five fatal minutes cost Eastbourne Borough all three points in a forgettable National South game at Oxford City on Saturday.
Three wins in the previous five matches had – barring some improbable arithmetic – secured Borough’s status for another season, and with Oxford also just about safe, the two clubs had little more than pride to play for. On the run of play, the Sports were worth a point, but it all went wrong just after half-time.First, a piercing run on the City right wing produced a sharp low cross from Sam Nombe. Sports full-back Matt Pickering, facing his own goal, got an unfortunate touch past keeper Mark Smith to give Oxford the lead.
It was a harsh part of the learning curve for 18-year-old Pickering, who has hugely impressed since forcing his way into the front side in February. But less than five minutes later it was a senior team-mate, Sergio Torres, who claimed the wrong sort of assist as the home side went two up.
A smart passing move saw Fleet racing into the Borough box, and he tumbled under a stretching Torres challenge: perhaps not the clearest of penalties, but enough to convince referee Jack Packman, and Paterson doubled the City lead from the spot.
Earlier, a fairly even first half had seen Borough edge the chances. Nombe had been defied by a good save from Smith, who also came out bravely to smother Paterson’s burst. But Gavin McCallum was thwarted by a deflection at the back post, while earlier Pickering drilled a cross-shot just wide for the Sports.
But Oxford, suddenly and rather gratefully two goals ahead, were now happy to consolidate for the final half-hour. Knocks to Harry Ransom and Shaun Okojie – both replaced – did not help the Borough cause, but with Tyler Pearson infusing fresh energy up front, the cause did not look totally lost. Archie Edwards had a decent shot saved and Will Hendon twisted his shot just wide of the near post.
Finally on 86 minutes Yemi Odubade created his own chance, skipping through a crowded penalty area, and finished splendidly across the keeper to reduce the lead. But time ran out on the Sports and City clung on for the victory.
The season is not quite over. Borough now face an intriguing final trio of games against promotion-chasing sides – Dartford and Chelmsford at home and Hemel Hempstead away. The Darts seized top spot in the table on Tuesday night, with a 1-0 victory at Gloucester, while Chelmsford and Hemel both look good for a play-off slot. For the Sports a single point would secure National South safety, although even if Borough suffered three defeats, third-bottom Poole Town would need to achieve the impossible, and win all five of their own remaining fixtures, to overhaul them.
Borough: Smith; Pickering, Khinda-John, Ransom (Simpemba 47), Edwards; Hendon, Wills, Torres, McCallum (Pearson 70); Okojie (Taylor 63), Odubade. Unused subs: Harris, Platt.
Referee: Jack Packman
Borough MoM: Yemi Odubade