Nothing to Separate Borough and Borough
By Kevin Anderson
Chiller of a night, thriller of a game as Sports and Beavers share a 2-2 draw
A chiller of a night, but a thriller of a game. Eastbourne Borough shared the points 2-2 with Hampton and Richmond Borough on Tuesday, to leave the Priory Lane crowd breathless and well entertained.
The draw seemed poor reward for Borough, who might have put the result beyond Hampton’s reach in a dominant first half-hour. But the Beavers fought back with great spirit, and in the end they fully deserved a share of the spoils.
Mist on the breath, scarves muffling the ears, darkness outside the stadium as if nothing exists beyond the throw of the floodlights. There is something magical and slightly unreal about a night game, almost like a piece of theatre. And on this shimmering green stage, the performers did not disappoint.
Within three minutes, the Sports had announced their intentions, with a crisp move down the left and a Sergio Torres shot which keeper Tom Lovelock saved. Aminute later they were ahead with a replica move. Lloyd Dawes clipped the ball in from wide, for Torres to chest down skilfully, spin athletically and finish decisively across Lovelock and into the bottom right corner.
Hampton looked shocked and sluggish, and for the next minutes they reeled under repeated home attacks. Dawes raced in from the right but his effort was cleared, and then Charlie Walker only found the side netting after Torres had set him clear with an inspired diagonal pass.
The Beavers, frankly, were looking more like rabbits, trapped on a central reservation, as Eastbourne attacks roared around them with headlights on full beam. Lovelock slipped as he struck a goal-kick and Dawes pounced, but some last-ditch defending crowded out the Borough striker just in time.
Could it really be this easy? There was plenty more plot to unfold. Hampton had offered little going forward in these early stages, except some overhit balls upfield to strikers caught offside four times in the first quarter-hour.
But on eighteen minutes their experienced front-man Chris Dickson made the wrong sort of impression on the play. Marshalled tightly by Harry Ransom and chasing a ball down the right touchline, Dickson – who has played in the Premier League – appeared to fling an arm into the face of Ransom, who crumpled to the ground. Shades of Dartford, where the Sports young centre-back suffered three painful collisions with Charlie Sheringham before the Darts striker was sent off. Referee Scott Jackson may have been unsighted but his assistant should have had a clear view – but Dickson escaped any sanction at all, and did not appear to apologise to Ransom.
But it was a moment, perhaps, best forgotten on a memorable night of good football. The action, if anything, gained pace as Hampton started to get their range-finding right, and Dickson was offside only by a toe-cap as he slipped in behind Kane Wills. Then another Beavers move down the left found full-back Nathan Mavila overlapping, but the cross was cut out.
Back swung the balance to the Mick Green End, where Torres and Ryan Hall sliced open the Hampton defence but Walker’s finish was too high. The ebullient, perpetual-motion striker is not always finding the target at present, but he is a nightmare for defenders, and just past the half-hour Walker’s darting run drew a clumsy trip and a nailed-on penalty.
Dean Cox despatched the spot kick for 2-0 – but any ideas of a rout were punctured within less than a minute. Hampton attacked down the left, switched the ball smoothly across the front of the Eastbourne area, and found the advancing Tyrell Miller-Rodney. Before Borough could close him down, the full-back had released a magnificent strike which scorched a virtual vapour-trail into the top far corner.
2-1 then, and as the action moved up from brisk to frenetic, Walker raced on to a charged-down clearance but, with Hampton in panic, he planted his shot wide of the left post. Then Cox, who surely has the quickest football brain in National South, sweetly played in Wills for a lung-bursting run and a clean shot that Lovelock held.
3-1? Even 4-1? It might have been, but it wasn’t. Instead, Hampton earned their first corner, initially defended but recycled with a long cross to the back post, where the towering figure of Dickson rose to head home an equaliser.
At this stage, it was slightly more than Hampton deserved, and the Sports hammered forward again with Dawes shooting only just too high from a stampeding run, and then Hall’s shot finding the keeper’s arms. Centre-back Yado Mambo fouled Cox twice in quick succession, and from the second Lovelock had to be alert with a save.
As the half closed, Torres found Dawes in the D, but desperate defending smothered his turn, and at 2-2 players, coaches and spectators alike were grateful to snatch a cup of tea, catch their breath and gather their thoughts.
The second half opened with visitors on the front foot, and Zak Joseph should have put them ahead on 49 minutes, somehow blasting his shot into orbit from literally five yards, after Dickson had drawn a superb parrying save from Mark Smith.
The big Borough keeper was again on top form minutes later, saving at the left post from Dan Uchechi, as his teammates weathered a squall, if not quite a storm, of Hampton attacks. A crunching tackle felled Hall, who continued after treatment, but the home side really needed to wrest back the momentum as we entered the final half-hour.
Yemi Odubade – on for Dawes – brought fresh energy and Hampton were suddenly struggling again as Borough fashioned one move after another down the right flank, where Tobi Adebayo-Rowling produced a couple of lovely crosses, earning corners from one of which Tom Gardiner headed wide. Kris Campbell was no less positive on the left, the two young full-backs really giving the Sports an extra dimension in recent games.
Just a quarter of an hour left now, and some games might have petered out after such high-paced action. Not a bit: the closing minutes were absolutely frantic. Jamie Howell introduced Academy midfielder Andrew Briggs, and the youngster seized his chance with an outstanding cameo. Indeed, on 82 minutes he conjured the opening which so nearly won the match, playing in Yemi for a stunning strike that only left Mambo stunned – the Hampton defender somehow got his head in the way to knock the ball right off the goal-line.
Briggs was getting a taste for this. Within the final two minutes he had contrived an inventive chip, bound for the far corner until caught by an elastic Lovelock, and he then pulled a shot only just wide of the left post after Yemi and Kane Wills had opened up the tiring Beavers defence.
Wills, who finished the match playing just off the front man, had the final effort but not the final say, striking a shot low on the turn but denied by Lovelock’s low save. The midfield tandem of Wills and Torres had once again managed the game and driven the side with remarkable energy. Sergio earned MoM from the sponsors, although from the press bench Kane just edged this one – with centre-backs Gardiner and Ransom also in the frame.
Just a point then, after a night of action and entertainment from two committed and creative teams. Perhaps we need a new rule: one point for a boring goalless draw, but two points apiece for a score-draw thriller!
Borough: Smith; Adebayo-Rowling, Gardiner, Ransom, Campbell; Cox, Torres, Wills, Hall (West 73); Walker (Briggs 77), Dawes (Odubade 69). Unused subs: Pollard, Blackmore.
Referee: Scott Jackson Att: 438
Borough MoM: sterling work in midfield from Kane Wills