After three successive defeats, Eastbourne Borough blew away the self-doubts at Havant on Saturday with a resolute team performance and a well earned point.
In an open, high-paced game, Borough could have made a case for all three points, but in the end the draw was about right.
With Chris Shephard still sidelined, Widdrington gave a first start to Elliott Levy, and the young attacker played a full part in Borough’s confident and enterprising forward play.
Behind them, the edginess which had haunted the Sports against Dover had vanished, and with Ian Simpemba in dominant mood, the back line coped well with several spells of pounding Havant pressure.
The home side – no pushovers themselves, and on a good run of recent form – opened strongly and Borough were forced back too deep for comfort. Nic Ciardini and Scott Jones fluffed close-range chances, and the Sports were being starved of the possession that they needed to ease the pressure.
But on 11 minutes a deep Frankie Raymond cross was headed over by Gary Hart, and shortly afterwards the busy veteran striker struck a sublime dipping volley that beat giant keeper Scott Bevan but just cleared the crossbar.
Just after that Matt Aldred, who had himself been cruelly fouled by Jones at the expense of a yellow card, found himself in the book for bringing down Perry Ryan. By now, though, Eastbourne were clearly on top, and on 36 minutes came the breakthrough.
A slick one-touch move skimmed through midfield and Simon Johnson broke clear into the box to steer his shot beyond the keeper and in off the far post. 1-0, and a classic Borough strike.
But the lead lasted only five minutes. Ryan once again went to ground for a questionable free-kick 25 yards out. Taking the kick short himself, he took the return pass and screeched a blinder of a shot into the top left corner from well outside the box – possibly the best goal that Borough have conceded this season.
There was time before the break for a disbelieving Johnson to collect an improbable yellow card: it was Mr Pollard’s final act of the half before – in fairness – emerging for the second half to make a string of impeccable, well judged decisions.
With the game now finely balanced, the second half was full of genuine excitement and entertainment for a healthy crowd in which the Sports travelling faithful had plenty to cheer.
Tony Garrod replaced a limping Hart and ran eagerly up front, setting up one chance which Johnson drilled over. Aldred then carved himself Borough’s best chance just inside the box, but Bevan brilliantly saved the goalbound shot with his legs.
Meanwhile Craig Ross was back to his commanding best in the Sports goal, first denying Ciardini on the angle and then superbly saving late on from substitute Sahr Kabba: match-saving moments, both.
Widdrington shored things up with Ollie Rowe and James Stinson off the bench, but in fact it was Eastbourne who looked likelier winners as the minutes slid away.
It was the sort of game you didn’t want to end, spirited and flowing, and both teams had played their part.
Havant: Bevan, Newton, Blanchett, Kewley-Graham, Strugnell, Woodford, Ciardini, Ryan, Oli, Przespolewski, Jones. Subs: Kabba, Ramsey, Hutchinson, Atangana, Nanetti.
Borough: Ross 8, Tallack 7, Gorman 8, Aldred 7, Simpemba 8, Watts 7, Hart 7 (sub 64m Garrod 7), Raymond 7, Lok 7 (sub 82m Rowe), Johnson 8*, Levy 7 (sub 86m Stinson). Subs not used: Cole, Bown. MoM: Simon Johnson – perpetual motion man!
Referee: Mr C Pollard
Attendance: 745 including 60 from Borough