Fine Sports Performance Goes Unrewarded
Late Woking goal ends Borough's unbeaten start in a Priory Lane thriller
A Bank Holiday thriller at Priory Lane saw Eastbourne Borough edged out 2-1 by league leaders Woking – but not without a fight.
Borough’s unbeaten start in National South had lasted, not six games, but just three minutes short of seven. An early Woking penalty had been cancelled out by a Kane Wills equaliser in a terrific second half that had the Lane rocking, and the Sports might easily have claimed victory before falling to Kane Ferdinand’s late header.
Last season’s fragile Borough would have trooped of the field beaten by two or three goals. But Jamie Howell’s new side, forged of much sterner stuff, will surely chalk up more victories than defeats in the months ahead. From the commanding figure of Smith in goal, though the accomplished centre-back pairing of Gardiner and Ransom and the hugely experienced midfield resources of Torres, Cox, Wills, Hall, to the ever-improving goal threats of Dawes and evergreen Odubade - this squad is up for the task.
Jamie stayed with his policy of rotation, and Saturday’s MoM Mike West made way for returning skipper Sergio Torres. Ryan Hall, unwell at the weekend, was back with a vigorous midfield shift and Marvin Hamilton replaced promising young full-back Tom Day.
By their wheels shall ye know them. No Lamborghinis and not too many personalised plates among the Eastbourne squad, but – just as dogs look like their owners – the motors might just reflect the personalities. So when Charlie Walker’s bright red Fiat 500 breezed cheerfully into the pre-match car park, supporters’ hopes rose that the ebullient striker was fit again. Sadly the jarred knee, damaged at St Albans, is not yet healed, although on the mend much more quickly than had been feared. But for Monday, Dawes and Odubade were to lead the line – and did so superbly.
But it was the Cards, backed by two or three hundred travelling supporters, who got the first break. Just five minutes in, little midfielder Paul Hodges wove his way into the box and went down under Kristian Campbell’s challenge: just about enough contact to merit a penalty, which Max Kretschmar converted with ease to put Woking ahead.
Referee Paul Howard, admirably looking to keep the game moving, had a creditable afternoon and managed without a single yellow card. That approach must have been tested by some robust Woking challenges early on, however. Midfielder Amari Little managed three fouls in the first twelve minutes, and Sergio Torres seemed to be a target.
But the uglier edge disappeared and by now, we were all enjoying ourselves far too much. The action was rich with inventive running, sweet passing, delightful ball skills. It was like putting too much sugar on your corn flakes - but this bowl never went soggy.
Yemi darted clear of the Woking defence but could not get enough purchase on his header to beat goalkeeper Berti Schotterl, while at the other end Mark Smith – who again looked commanding in the keeper’s jersey – saved with his feet from former Burgess Hill hotshot Greg Luer. Then a Houdini twist and turn by Torres squeezed the Borough skipper through a crowded penalty area, but Schotterl superbly held his angled shot. You couldn’t take your eyes off this.
Ryan Hall’s perfect through ball sent Odubade clear again, but – unusually for the 3G – a freak bounce saw the ball stand up, and Woking’s Jack Cook gained a crucial second to recover and clear the ball.
On 35 minutes, from a Woking corner, a moment of controversy. Dawes robbed Luer and set off on one of those storming solo runs which have earned him spectacular goals – only for Mr Howard to pull play back because a Cards player was down in the goalmouth. And one nose-bleed later, play resumed with a tame dropped-ball.
If Woking had edged the first half, the Sports were to dominate the second. An early double save by Smith from Kretschmar was to be the visitors’ only sight of goal for a good half-hour, and the Priory Lane faithful were rewarded with an equaliser on 63 minutes. And what an equaliser.
Torres cleared Woking’s left-wing corner from the near post and Yemi, just inside his own half, conjured a wonderful turn to leave his two markers, Josh Kelly and former Sport Nathan Collier, floundering. With Kane Wills busting a lung to get alongside him, Yemi’s scorching sprint took him into the penalty area in seconds, and the perfect lay-off allowed Wills a triumphant finish from ten yards.
All to play for, then. Borough – with eight corners in the second half alone – were piling on the pressure and Woking had to dig deep. Schotterl pulled off a fabulous full-stretch save to deny Dawes, and Tom Gardiner headed just wide after the influential Dean Cox had cleverly recycled a corner. Then Sergio’s chip beat the defence, Dawes beat the keeper, but Cook recovered to clear.
Something had to give. A huge penalty appeal for Odubade, tumbling under the challenge from Kiran Khinda-John, was turned down, and then with five minutes left, from Hamilton’s probing cross, substitute David Martin blazed his shot too high with Woking’s defence all at sea. That was a pivotal moment in the course of such a tight game.
Shake hands and settle for 1-1? Nobody wanted this one to finish – but it was the Cards who produced the final trump card. Kretschmar and Nicky Wheeler turned Borough inside out down the left, and Kane Ferdinand’s glancing head, either inspired or fortunate, spun in an arc just inside the top corner with Smith helpless. Great drama, great entertainment - but a cruel finale.
Borough: Smith; Hamilton, Gardiner, Ransom, Campbell; Cox, Torres, Wills, Hall (Martin 83); Odubade, Dawes (Simpemba 88). Unused subs: Briggs, Day, Pollard.
Referee: Paul Howard Attendance: 927
Borough MoM: Harry Ransom by a short (or tall) head from centre-back partner Tom Gardiner
Photo credit: Jamie Evans - once again Jamie's great images capture the action in those frozen frames!