Sports Are Beaten at Concord
By Kevin Anderson
A second fruitless journey to Essex brings another away defeat, as Borough never get off the runway....
Eastbourne Borough’s bump-along season hit a cul-de-sac on Canvey Island on Tuesday night, grinding to a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at Concord Rangers after a bright start.
South-East Essex on a grey November night will always be a challenge, and seldom a place for the beautiful game. Jamie Howell summed it up curtly. “We were poor. We did start brightly and creatively, but it’s an old saying in football that you have to score when you’re on top. We probably let Concord off the hook, and then they just took over.”
Concord, frequent strugglers in recent years, have spent freely this season to assemble a strong, experienced squad, and their homely Canvey ground has become a fortress, with just one defeat in ten National South games. In fact, only two of those ten opposing teams have even scored a goal at the snappily named Aspect Arena. It literally is a cul-de-sac, down past the housing estate and alongside the caravan park, with no way out except in metaphorical reverse.
The aspect from the main stand felt a tiny bit unreal: a small crowd watched mainly in silence, with more noise from the players than from the spectators – an uncanny experience. You hear everything: the ceaseless urging of Kane Wills, a man you’d always want beside you in the trenches; the bellowing from Smudge, a man who would terrify you if you glimpsed him in the opposing trenches; the intelligent move-by-move instructions from Tom Gardiner, a man with the brain of Bobby Moore. Not to mention the stream of appeals to the referee, the uninvited advice to his linesmen from players who were never possibly offside, or the muttered under-breath curses each time a pass or a shot is misplaced.
But was this the arena for a footballing master-class – or for a thunder-and-guts confrontation? For the first half-hour the science was in control. Howell’s side rather surprised Concord: an unexpected team shape which we knew about but they didn’t, and some swift passing that exposed the home defence. Yes, honestly, Borough were on top, but they were to concede against the run of play and trail 1-0 at the break. And the home side then dominated the second half with further strikes on 62 and 82 minutes.
The Gaffer gave a debut at centre back to Stacey Freeman – son of Lewes manager Darren – who slotted in confidently. Alongside the immaculate Gardiner, Stacey was decisive and he kept things simple.
The Sports looked quick and fluent from the start, and had all the early chances – the best of them on 20 minutes falling to Charlie Walker, who raced clear on to Ryan Hall’s pass and then, shooting a bit hastily, pulled his shot past the keeper but wide of the far post.
Just previously, Walker also appeared to have played in Kane Wills as the Sports broke three on one, but a questionable offside flag pulled them up. Two foraging runs from full-back by Kris Campbell came close to breaking through, and it all looked promising.
Concord had been struggling to put any moves together, but out of the blue they took a 29th minute lead. A free-kick wide out by the left corner-flag was swung in wickedly, and Jack Midson met it at the front post with a glancing header across Mark Smith in the Eastbourne goal.
Borough continued to press, with two decent efforts by Ryan Hall and another shot just wide by the tireless Wills, but they turned around a goal down.
In the second half, Rangers tweaked their shape and came out of the traps at blistering pace, winning a corner after just twenty seconds and knocking Borough out of their stride. Direct and physical, they doubled the lead on 62 minutes when, after a third successive corner, centre-forward Nana Kyei struck a brilliant dipping drive from just outside the box into the top corner. After a quiet start to his evening, Kyei – on loan from Barnet – had exploded into action in the second half, and was now about as easy to contain as catching a lighted firework.
The Sports could find no way back, against a home side whose physical approach sometimes verged on bullying, and Eastbourne’s proud record of scoring in every match since the first day of the season now looked under threat. Yemi Odubade, replacing Walker, was full of good movement, and there were glimmers of chances. Harry Ransom did well to reach Dean Cox’s searching cross but volleyed wide of the back post, and Wills saw his header saved.
But the minutes were slipping away, and they conceded a third goal eight minutes from time, Midson whacking in the loose ball in an almighty goalmouth scramble from a corner. It was a moment that crystallised the game – the burly and hugely experienced Midson shrugging off a young defender to stamp his dominance on the game.
Insult was added to injury when Cox and Hall each collected trivial yellow cards, when more robust challenges by Concord had gone unpunished.
A few positives, then, but a long testing night and a forgettable game on Canvey Island. Reverse out of that metaphorical cul-de-sac? Well yes, but by Saturday the Sports would be cruising down the broad, bright M4 motorway to Twerton Park, and a chance to start again.
Borough: Smith; Odebayo-Rowling, Gardner, Freeman, Campbell; Cox, Torres (West 66), Ransom, Hall; Wills; Walker (Odubade 66). Unused subs: Briggs, Santos, Dawes.
Referee: Jason Richardson – good control, but a pity about the two late yellows.
Att: 262 including a dozen from Borough
MoM: Tom Gardiner - more influential week by week