After defeat at AFC Wimbledon, New Year’s Day brought new faces but no change of fortunes – and no respite either, as Borough faced the daunting power of big spending Crawley Town.
The young on-loan strike pair of James Norwood and Dan Walker both looked lively at times, and Walker’s stunning late goal gave Borough some consolation, and drew rousing applause even from the Crawley faithful.
But this was a day for grim, entrenched defending rather than artistry, and the home side’s heavy artillery battered Eastbourne almost from start to finish.
In fairness, the white flag of surrender was never raised, and Garry Wilson afterwards paid tribute to his side. “After the first half-hour we feared it might be four or five.
“But we told them at half-time to keep their nerve and do the supporters justice.
They did that, and I was pleased with our fitness and the manner we finished the game.”
In truth Crawley were a formidable outfit, full of running, fire-power and controlled physicality.
Boss Steve Evans may have his critics, but this is no bunch of mercenaries that he has lured to the Broadfield, but an experienced team brimming with talent.
Eastbourne found their defence breached as early as the ninth minute by a bursting run and smart finish by Ben Smith.
Then Crawley doubled the lead on 28 minutes when a massive clearance by Glen Wilson caught Borough square, and the irrepressible Matt Tubbs beat Banks from 15 yards.
After that, it didn’t actually get any worse. Borough kept their heads, put passes together and enjoyed their best spell of the game leading up to half-time.
Indeed, in stoppage time Walker outpaced the Town centre-backs, and his fierce low shot was heading for the bottom corner until Kuipers stretched full length to scoop it away.
After the break, with Crawley still blazing forward, the Borough defence stood fast, with skipper Ben Austin leading by example and young Mitchell Nelson again showing real class at full-back. Borough rode their luck a few times, and Crawley twice shuddered the woodwork from free-kicks.
But the only addition to the home tally came on 61 minutes through a fairly soft penalty, converted by Tubbs after an Austin handball.
Five minutes from time Walker, who had impressed throughout with close control and inventive running, struck the final flourish from fully 25 yards.
Crawley Town: Kuipers, Wilson, Mills, McFadzean, Howell, Neilson, Bulman, Smith (Simpson 83), Torres (Hunt 63), Tubbs (Brodie 73), McAllister. Subs Not Used: Cook, Shearer. Booked: Neilson, Hunt.
Goals: Smith 13mins, Tubbs 28mins, 61mins pen.
Eastbourne Borough: Banks 7, Jenkins 6, Elphick 8, Austin 8, Nelson8, Matt Crabb 6 (Nathan Crabb 79), Smart 7, Johnson 7 (Strevett 66 6), Walker 8*, Taylor 6 (Brinkhurst 66 6), Norwood 6. Subs Not Used: Baker, Atkin.
Booked: Austin, Johnson, Elphick, Jenkins.
MoM: Ben Walker (fresh appetite and a super goal) Goals: Walker 85mins.
Att: 1,894. Ref: Chris Powell (Dorset) 8.