Sports on top at Twerton in 1-0 win
Yemi strikes as Eastbourne Borough conquer the Romans
Was your journey really necessary? More than twelve hours, three motorways and a 2am return - but a team united in the cause. A battling Eastbourne Borough performance, capped off by Yemi Odubade’s opportunist strike, earned three priceless National South points with a 1-0 victory at Bath City on Tuesday night.
On what may prove one of the turning points of the season, the Sports dug very deep, shook off the disappointment and self-doubts of their two previous games – both home defeats – and played with spirit and discipline, to prise themselves nine points clear of the relegation places.
But it wasn’t only about the arithmetic. Had Borough lost this tricky-looking fixture, far from home against play-off chasing City, the clutch of clubs below them would have started to scent blood. Instead, they have passed the magic forty points mark, and can approach the final tranche of fixtures with freedom.
Jamie Howell tweaked his line-up only slightly, starting with Jamie Taylor on the right in place of Charlie Harris. Once again his youthful back five played with maturity, Pickering and Edwards also pushing forward smartly from full-back at times. Dawes and Odubade combined well up front, and there was a welcome second-half cameo for Shaun Okojie.
Although never really a match for the purist, this was a tight contest with no shortage of goal chances. The Romans began at pace, launching long balls at Borough down the Twerton Park slope, and Opi Edwards might have given them an 8th minute lead, slicing his shot over the bar at the end of a swift right-wing move.
The Sports responded with a direct free-kick from a tasty position on the edge of the D, but Odubade lofted his shot high into the sprawling terraces behind the goal at this grand old football ground.
Then Jack Compton’s dangerous run was stopped by an accomplished intervention from Harry Ransom – the eighteen-year-old once again forming a majestic partnership with James Haran at centre-back. And as Bath’s early energy petered out, it was the Sports who took control.
Breaking three on two, Yemi played left to Gavin McCallum when Kane Wills looked better placed to his right, and the move was halted. Lloyd Dawes, on a similar dashing break, did find Gavin and powered in on the return, but a City head cleared the cross. But Borough were tightening the tourniquet and on 35 minutes, from Wills’ long free-kick, Ransom conjured a shot on the turn which spun across goal, hit the post and was scrambled clear.
Goalless at the break, then, and closing in on a useful point. But the Sports wanted more, and down the slope in the second half, they now looked dominant, and on the hour they grabbed the lead. Taylor’s clipped ball over the top turned the Bath defence, and as defender Jack Batten and keeper Luke Southwood dallied, Yemi zipped in and stroked his shot into a gaping net from the edge of the box. Yemi will score, and has scored, many more spectacular goals – but not many more crucial ones.
Cue a breathless final half-hour, with increasingly frantic pressure from City, but Eastbourne matched them stride for stride and tackle for tackle. Torres and Wills, like flag-bearers on the barricades, set a stirring example and the entire Borough team followed it. Was this the same eleven who finished Saturday’s game with Gloucester exhausted and dispirited? No two games of football are the same….
Despite the eager but rather blunt home pressure, the best chances fell to the Sports, and they should have made the game safe with two McCallum efforts, both saved, a galloping Dawes burst, and a late Wills blazer that fizzed high into the night sky.
Substitute Antoine Semenyo, on loan from Bristol City, re-ignited the home forward line, but Haran superbly blocked his best attempt right on the goal-line, and then deep into stoppage time Mark Smith fell on a final Semenyo strike, clutching it gratefully and defiantly. This was Borough’s night.
Borough: Smith; Pickering, Haran, Ransom, Edwards; Taylor (Harris 63), Wills, Torres, McCallum; Dawes (Simpemba 89), Odubade (Okojie 66). Unused subs: Khinda-John, Pearson.
Referee: a very competent Marc Whaley Attendance: a shivering 401
Borough MoM: Kane Wills – strong and combative