Sports Clip United's Wings
A winner from Dawes - and a winning team effort from Borough
A sweetly taken Lloyd Dawes goal, followed by an hour of defensive heroics, saw Eastbourne Borough to a thrilling 1-0 victory over Welling United on Tuesday night.
On a heart-stopping night at Priory Lane, Borough upset the odds and defied the might of highly fancied visitors to claim their first National South victory of the new season – and restore the faith of their loyal supporters.
Four points from two games, and two clean sheets? This wasn’t at all what we expected from Jamie Howell’s newly-shaped team. Just a week ago, short of signings and expected by some observers to be cannon fodder, the Sports were looking fragile.
But – following last weekend’s hard-earned goalless draw at Oxford City – Borough surprised any sceptics, and probably Welling too, with their spirit and their tireless teamwork.
The Kent club arrived with an influx of strong, experienced signings and with their sights already set on the promotion places. Under Steve King’s canny management, they may well achieve those aims over 42 games. But this was not their night as Borough built a barricade that Welling – despite a sheaf of scoring chances – failed to breach. Tom Gardiner looks a class acquisition alongside the imposing Harry Ransom, Kristian Campbell is clearly loving it at left back, and Harry Pollard slotted in efficiently for Hamilton in the other full-back berth.
It all started quite cautiously, Welling seeing plenty of the ball but looking rather baffled as Eastbourne’s high pressing game kept them in their own half. Arnaud Mendy saw a shot dflected for a corner, and then Nassim L’Ghoul had his dangerous run blocked off.
But the Sports, with Sergio Torres leading by example, were starting to win the midfield, and two successive moves created chances for Dean Cox – back in a Borough shirt after almost a decade – but one skimmed too high and the other was comfortably saved by keeper Dan Wilks.
On 20 minutes came the breakthrough. A Wills interception and Sergio's instant pass forward found Dawes, marginally onside, racing through the Wings defence, drawing the keeper, and planting his shot confidently into the bottom left corner of the net.
Borough had trodden on the tiger’s tail. With three-quarters of the game still to go, Welling had every prospect of clawing the game back, and within minutes they had twice hit the woodwork. L’Ghoul headed Jack Jebb’s free-kick against the foot of the right post, and Thierry Audel put the loose ball wide. Then when Borough defenders missed a long throw, Danny Mills smacked a shot against the underside of the bar, and L’Ghoul sliced the rebound criminally over the Mick Green Stand from six yards out. It was the let-off of the night.
The Sports were far from overrun, though, and from a Dawes cross Cox neatly set up Charlie Walker, whose volley was charged down. Dawes was on fire up front, Torres, Kane Wills and Ryan Hall were toe-to-toe with the Welling midfielders and the home supporters were loving it.
A spell before half-time brought an Arnaud Mendy piledriver, blocked by Harry Ransom, a sweet move at the other end with a Torres cross that just evaded Walker, and a rather cheap yellow card for Harry Pollard – efficiently deputising for the injured Hamilton.
It didn’t need a panel of pundits to predict the second half siege to come, but some Priory Lane pessimists – who, after all, had witnessed only five home wins in the whole of last season – may have been resigned to watching the Sports concede.
Welling poured forward, and the returning Gavin McCallum set up an early header for Jebb, which Smith saved easily. Then the Wings won three successive corners, but in a penalty area packed with bodies, there was no way through. Indeed, from the third, Hall broke promisingly through an empty midfield but his attempted pass to Dawes was too long.
But the longer the half went on, the more frustrated Welling looked. Their own strikers were guilty of rash and wild finishing, but even efforts on target were stoutly met by some quite heroic defending. In one incredible sequence, Ransom and Torres cleared successive shots off the line before Brendan Kiernan fired over the bar. And a fired-up Mark Smith athletically pushed Audel's late header up and over to safety. No pasaran…..
The Sports broke only occasionally, Hall pounding through an empty midfield and drawing a splendid flying save from Wilks, and substitute Yemi Odubade squeezed himself clear one-on-one with the goalkeeper outside the penalty area, but thwarted by a possible Wilks handball.
Into an achingly slow five minutes of stoppage time, and one final chance for the Wings saw Danny Mills head wastefully wide from a tempting cross. Steve King looked on helplessly, aware that his new team could have won this one three times over – but the only goal attempts that actually matter are the ones that find the net.
Had Borough ridden their luck? It is not luck when defenders fling their bodies on the line, or when exhausted midfielders and outnumbered attackers run and chase apparently lost causes. It is belief and commitment, and on Tuesday night it was rewarded.
Borough: Smith; Pollard, Gardiner, Ransom, Campbell; Cox (West 72), Torres, Wills, Hall; Walker (Martin 50), Dawes (Odubade 65). Unused subs: Briggs, Pearson.
Referee: steady performance from Steven Hughes
Att: a healthy 585
Borough MoM: from a list of candidates, Lloyd Dawes edges it (for this reporter) with that crucial goal. Sponsors Birchwood Ford nominated Kane Wills for his tenacious shift in the engine-room of the side.
Photo credit: Jamie Evans Photography (lots more great pics from Jamie on the club website and on the Facebook group!)