BOROUGH boss Tommy Widdrington hailed his side’s performance as ‘encouraging’ after they held League One outfit Stevenage to a 1-1 draw at Priory Lane on Tuesday evening.
The home side stood toe-to-toe with their higher-level opponents for most of the 90 minutes and a late goal in each half ensured the teams shared the honours.
Borough had gone behind in the 43rd minute against the run of play but pressed hard for an equaliser, which deservedly came as the club’s new signing, Ben Adams, converted a penalty five minutes from time.
Widdrington said, “I was satisfied with what I saw. I think most people know the fixture came out of the blue a bit for us but, saying that, I thought the players acquitted themselves really well in their first competitive environment.
“The new lads and the ones from last season looked reasonably well-organised and the performance was encouraging. They all showed a commitment and an energy collectively and, of course, the biggest positive for us was that everyone came through uninjured.”
Widdrington had named a starting 11 that included four familiar faces from last season in the shape of Sam Cole, captain Ollie Rowe, Ethan Strevett and club stalwart Darren Baker.
Also making an appearance in the first line-up were new signings Nick Jordan, Anwar Uddin and David Knight alongside four triallists.
Both sides got off to a timid start, using the opening half hour to find their feet and chase down some early possession.
While neither side really tested the opposition’s ‘keeper, it was Borough who enjoyed the best of the slight opportunities, many courtesy of former Thurrock striker Knight and Chris Morgan.
However, a lapse in concentration allowed Stevenage’s Danny Carr to unleash a long-range effort that beat Jordan between the posts to swing the tie in the visitors’ favour.
Widdrington made eight changes at half time, with only Cole, Uddin and Knight surviving his shake-up.
Last season’s players Simon Johnson and Marvin Hamilton-Omole came on to start the second half, joined by summer signings Danny Potter, Matt Turpin and Ben Adams.
The Sports came out and pressed hard for the equaliser that would be no less than they deserved.
Knight continued to come close, with Anthony Storey and Mark Nwokeji also testing Stevenage’s ‘keeper Steve Arnold.
In the 85th minute, their efforts were rewarded as goalscorer Carr brought down Simon Johnson in the box to hand Eastbourne a pathway back into the contest.
Former Leicester City youth Adams stepped up to calmly convert the spot-kick and ensure the match ended all square.
The club’s next pre-season friendly is away to Hythe Town on Saturday before they travel to Horsham on Tuesday night.
Widdrington said, “I know in my head what I want to improve.
“We’re in the process of making radical changes at the club and we need to be flexible, not just stick to one kind of playing style.
“It was a good performance but of course there are things to improve on.”
Of the triallists on show on Tuesday night, the Borough boss said, “I’ll probably give them Saturday and Tuesday but will let them know their future by Friday, I won’t keep them hanging on.
“In time I will sit them all down and tell them whether we want them to continue here or not.
“There wasn’t anybody last night that made me immediately think we didn’t want them around.”
Eastbourne Borough team: Jordan, Baker, Cole, Rowe, Uddin, Corcoran, Okus, Strevett, Yiga, Morgan, Knight, Potter, Hamilton, Turpin, Gorman, Storey, Johnson, Nwokeji, Gilbert, Adams, MacFarland, Merlaku, Lok