Eastbourne Borough claimed their place in the next round of the FA Cup with a replay victory at Farnborough that drew on all their resources.
While the victory was secured with two classic “Borough” goals – quick movement, sharp passing and clinical finishing – Tommy Widdrington’s troops had to display another facet of their game.
As well as shaking off tired legs and bruised limbs after Saturday’s draw, the squad had to contend with illness which cost Ian Simpemba’s absence and affected a number of other players.
It was the best of birthday presents for Widdrington, and all the better for being so hard earned.
“We had players sick before the game and drained by half-time, genuinely unwell, some of them,” said the manager. “To dig that deep speaks volumes for my players.
“It was ability plus character, and that’s an unstoppable mix.
“We had to soak up some pressure in the first half but Farnborough never really hurt us. And then our two goals would have wowed you if you saw them on FIFA 2014!”
The Borough boss was rightly delighted, but this was not simulation on some unreal video game. It was sweat and commitment, turned into the reality of a fine team performance and capped by glorious finishing.
It had not started too promisingly. Farnborough, perhaps feeling that their job had been more than half done at Priory Lane, began strongly and they swept at Borough’s back line, in which the new pairing of Ollie Rowe and James Stinson were briefly struggling to weld a partnership.
But the home side had little to show for their spells of first-half dominance, and they paid the price for that old truth that you need to score while you’re playing well.
Striker Dave Tarpey shot wastefully high when well placed, and one dangerous low cross was cleared from right on the goal-line, but otherwise Borough were unscathed.
At the other end Darren Lok scooped one shot too high when set up by Simon Johnson, and Chris Shephard drilled a low drive across the face of goal, and with the stalemate still unbroken at half-time, we were wondering if this game would take more than 90 minutes to resolve.
But Borough were in no mind - and probably no state – to lengthen their stay at Paddy Power Park.
Within five minutes of the restart they had struck the first of two killer blows, Darren Lok sweetly finishing a smart move that turned the Farnborough back line inside out.
And with Farnborough struggling to regain their hold, it was suddenly 2-0.
All the front four of Hart, Shephard, Johnson and Lok were involved - the build up as sharp as a surgeon’s knife, and the finish from ten yards by Shephard as lethal as an arrow.
In those two moments, the game was won and lost. Farnborough threw on a couple of nippy substitutes but the Sports defence, its early wobbles sorted out, was now in commanding shape. Borough comfortably ran the tempo and the clock down, and the path to the next round was secure.
Eastbourne Borough: Ross, Tallack, Gorman, Aldred, Stinson, Rowe, Hart (Levy), Raymond (Cole), Lok (Garrod), Johnson, Shephard