EASTBOURNE Borough took their place in history, but failed to complete a memorable day by bringing home the Sussex Senior Cup.
Brighton & Hove Albion reserves 2, Eastbourne Borough 0
In what was the first ever game to be played at Albion’s vast and long-awaited new Amex Community Stadium, Borough fought the good fight and held their own for 70 minutes, but fitness was the telling factor as the second half progressed.
Apart from enjoying the amazing facilities at what will surely be dubbed the Wembley of Sussex, Borough fans could not complain about the performance of what was very much a makeshift side in a match that a times seemed more like a friendly than a cup final.
Seven squad members were absent for either injury or ineligibility, the lastest casualty being new striker Ben Watson who pulled out at the 11th hour with a calf strain.
With Ben Austin awaiting an operation. Darren Baker captained the side at the start of his 20th season with the club.
And the veteran defender hardly put a foot wrong in a back line in which the Dan Kelly was also outstanding. Kelly answered an 11th hour SOS to turn out for the injury-hit Eastbourne team.
But for a timely Baker challenge to deny Norwegian Torbjorn Agdestein early on, the game could well have drifted away from Borough much earlier than it did.
Matt Smart was twice high and wide with long range efforts before the bravery of Rikki Banks saved the visitors as the keeper threw himself at the feet of George Barker after fine work by veteran Gary Hart had opened up the Eastbourne defence.
As the interval approached Banks was again at his best as he dived full length to deny Barker again.
Borough found themselves under pressure at the start of the second half and visiting hearts missed a beat as Agdestein went down in the area, but there was no response from the referee.
Borough, however, had their moments and when shaky keeper Michael Poke fumbled a Matt Crabb cross, Baker pounced and was only inches too high from giving Albion the fright of their lives and his own place in the history books by becoming the first scorer at the new stadium.
There was certainly no such uncertainty at the other end where Banks performed superbly to again deny Barker and then did well to keep out an Anton Rodgers free-kick.
Ethan Strevett replaced a hugely disappointed-looking Ollie Rowe, only for the first ever goal to finally be scored at the Amex. For Brighton fans, it provided a fitting farewell for veteran Gary Hart who headed Grant Hall’s cross past Banks in the 70th minute.
With Ian Pulman on for Smart, Borough kept plugging away and there was never any question of Albion having things all their own way. But the likelihood of an Eastbourne goal always seemed remote.
The final nail in the Eastbourne coffin came just a minute after young Billy Medlock replaced a limping Matt Crabb, Steve Cook climbing to glance in the second goal from Rodgers ‘ free-kick to put the game beyond doubt.
Pulman’s floated cross from the right rebounded off the bar in the dying minutes to deny Borough the satisfaction of a consolation goal.
However, although Garry Wilson and his men may want to forget the result – they will remember the occasion and the privilege of playing in a stadium that is a credit to both the Brighton club and the county.
BRIGHTON: Poke, Strong, Sampayo, Kasim, Hall, Cook, Simmonds, Rodgers, Agdestein, Barker, Hart (Redwood 88).
EASTBOURNE: Banks 8*, Baker 8, Cobbs 7, Rowe 7 (Strevett 57 – 6) Kelly 8, Smart 6 (Pulman 72 - 6), Brinkhurst 7, Johnson 7, Rook 6, Hutchinson 8, Crabb 6 (Medlock 82 - 6).
REFEREE: Ashley Slaughter 8.
MoM: Rikki Banks: fine saves kept Borough in the game.
Booking: Sonny Cobbs - cynical second half challenge that easily have earned him a red card.