Eastbourne Borough were edged out by league promotion-chasers Dartford 2-1 in a hotly-contested FA Trophy encounter at Princes Park on Tuesday night.
Borough began with a 4-3-3 formation, which appeared to fluster the home side, as they resorted to inaccurate long and high balls and failed to hit their stride. In contrast, Borough looked calm and composed in possession early on.
Despite their dominance on the ball, the away side were mainly restricted to set-pieces, which almost paid off when Carl Rook nodded a Ross Treleaven delivery onto the bar. Treleaven and Rook were again unfortunate from corners as both headed marginally wide.
A lively Treleaven had the half’s best opportunity, as his excellent turn and lob landed just over the bar minutes before the interval.
Borough were made to pay for their profligacy, as the hosts responded in style, breaking the deadlock near the hour mark when Champion smashed the ball past a helpless Clark Masters to hand the initiative to Dartford.
The visitors had a chance to level when Gary Hart reacted well to a poorly cleared corner, but his effort from close range fell wide.
The home side doubled their advantage when Borough failed to clear their lines, with Harris making them pay on the 67th minute to hand Dartford a 2-0 lead.
The Sports responded admirably five minutes later, when from another corner, the hosts clumsily conceded a spot-kick, which Rook duly converted to reduce the two-goal deficit.
However, disaster struck soon after when Masters was dismissed for handling the ball outside the area, which proved to be the deciding moment of the match, despite a late flourish from the visitors.
Borough’s Ben Austin made a welcome return to action, and the Sports could have snatched an equaliser when a looping Rook header dropped just over the bar before the referee called time on proceedings, and Borough’s FA Trophy campaign.
A disappointed Wilson added, “By the letter of the law Clark had to go but to be honest it killed the game as a contest. We were back to 2-1 and pushing and then we have to put a midfielder (Matt Smart) in goal.
“We put a lot of effort into the game and I was pleased with our performances but at the moment we are not getting the results.
“Dartford on Tuesday is tough proposition but we made a decent fist of it. But ultimately we are all paid to win games and we are not doing that at the moment.”
BOROUGH: Masters, Baker, Cole, Smart, Rowe, Elphick (Austin 80), Brinkhurst (Camara 73), Strevett (Crabb 68), Rook, Hart, Treleaven. UNUSED SUBS: Watson, Hutchinson.