Two top quality second half goals by Elvis Hammond finally killed off Chelmsford City and confirmed Eastbourne Borough as serious candidates for that final play-off place in Skrill South.
In a breath-taking battle at Priory Lane on Saturday, the 33-year Ghanian again proved to be that final piece in the jigsaw that boss Tommy Widdrington so desperately needed for a squad capable of challenging for honours.
It is not only his lethal finishing, but also his workrate that is proving so important
Widdrington said, “He is no spring chicken, but he is running around like an 18-year-old. I tried to sign him a few years back when I was at Southend but for one reason or another it didn’t happen.”
Borough’s second win in four days was anything but plain sailing against a City side that twice hit the woodwork in the opening 16 minutes
Kieron St Aimie’s shot was touched onto the bar by keeper Craig Ross, Michael Cheek’s right-footer also came off the bar and Lewis Tallack headed Matt Lock’s effort off the goal-line.
It was no surprise when City when ahead in the 24th minute. Robert Edwards took advantage of a Borough mix-up on the halfway line, raced down the left flank and crossed to Cheek whose shot was diverted into the net by Adam Watts.
Borough levelled at 37 minutes with Chelmsford complaining bitterly than Hammond was offside as he chased a long ball down the middle. Keeper Carl Pentney dashed out of his goal to clear, but failed to get back in time to keep out Stacy Long’s classic chip from 30 yards.
The goal inspired Borough who took the lead with Watts atoning for his earlier own goal by finding the net from an acute angle on the right following a flick-on from Frankie Raymond’s free-kick.
City came out in the second half with all guns blazing and in the 53rd minute drew level when Cheek forced the ball home after an almighty goalmouth scramble that followed a corner.
But Borough these days are made of stern stuff and there was no question of them laying down to die.
A glancing header from Raymond was fractionally off target and Pentney went bravely down at Long’s feet as the Eastbourne pressure intensified.
At this stage it was anyone’s game in what was turning out to be a marvellous advert for non-league soccer.
But it was time for Hammond to take centre-stage with a dynamic double that sent the home fans wild. In the 58th minute Long’s sublime pass put the ex-Fulham striker away on the left and he found the net from an almost impossible angle.
His second, in the 74th minute, was a rasping 30-yarder from the opposite side which fizzed into the far corner of the net with Pentney helpless to do a thing about it.
There was still time for minor drama as Chelmsford’s Mark Haines was shown a red card for a second yellow in the dying minutes.
And finally mystery as the sponsors named Simon Johnson man of the match. What game were they watching? Johnson had a decent game on his comeback after injury and was subbed in the 79th minute.
In my book, there were three candidates, Elvis Hammond, Stacy Long and the always reliable Ian Simpemba. But on this day there could only be one winner and that was Hammond, for his workrate and for his lethal finishing that ultimately won Borough the game.
Johnson, excellent player as he is, must have been embarrassed to have taken the prize.
Eastbourne: Ross, Tallack, Cole, Gorman, Simpemba, Watts, Derry (Lok 61), Raymond, Hammond Levy 86), Johnson (Aldred 79), Long. Unused subs: Rowe, Stinson.
Chelmsford: Pentney, Sackey,
MoM: Elvis Hammond: surely the choice of everyone – other than the sponsors!
Referee: Mr L. Venemore.