Eastbourne Borough’s Wembley hopes were left in tatters as Conference North opponents Lowestoft Town pulled off their first away win of the season at Priory Lane on Saturday, writes Ken McEwan
It was a bitterly disappointing exit for Borough when it seemed as if they would at least force an FA Trophy replay after Darren Lok had come off the bench to level the scores.
Tommy Widdrington’s men have also missed out on a £4,000 hand-out from the FA, the prize for winning a third qualifying round tie.
Instead it was the visiting Trawlerboys who reached the first round proper for the third time in five years.
There was little to choose between the two sides in a goalless first half of few clearcut chances with Jake Reed showing his intentions from the start. The match was only minutes old when the in-form striker got the better of Ian Simpemba on the left, cut in and his fierce low drive was well saved by Lewis Carey at the second attempt.
There were appeals for spot kicks at both ends.Shaun Bammant was nudged over by Simpemba and Jack Ainsley was hit on the hand in penalty area incidents, but referee Lee Venamore rightly waved both away.
The ever probing Gavin McCallum looked the biggest threat to Lowestoft, but the solidity of visiting centre backs Rickie Hayles and Sam Gaughran provided excellent protection for keeper Ashlee Jones, back between the posts for Lowestoft after injury.
Visiting fans screamed for a red card when Frankie Raymond’s clumsy challenge left Curtis Haynes-Brown writhing in agony. Raymond was shown a yellow card as was Erkan Okay minutes later for a high and possibly revenge challenge on Raymond.
The 57th minute introduction of Darren Lok for Matt Parsons almost proved the undoing of the visitors with Lok’s header from Raymond’s corner fractionally too high.
But in the 65th minute came the moment of the match. Curtis Haynes-Brown’s excellent cross from the left eluded two home defenders and Reed charged in from the right to hit a volley that cannoned into the far top corner of the net.
Luck seemed to be on the side of the visitors when a mis-hit effort from Lok rolled agonising off the post and into the grateful arms of Jones.
But at 75 minutes Lok finally hit the target heading home a Raymond corner that threatened to take both sides back to Lowestoft for a replay.
Although the momentum was very much with Borough, the Trawlerboys refused to lie down with that man Reed having the final say. With 10 minutes remaining, a long ball down the middle by sub Bradley Woods-Garness was cleverly controlled by Reed who sidestepped Simpember before curling a sweet drive past the helpless Carey.
Afterwards, Borough’s newly appointed assistant manager Matt Bubb admitted the team were gutted by the defeat. “We had a lot of possession and we were very disappointed to concede the first goal. It came out of nothing but it was a great strike and worthy to win you any away game. After that we needed to find another gear.
“I think we have to give Lowestoft credit; they set out with a set formation and they never deviated from it. We put them under a lot of pressure, but probably lacked a bit of quality where it mattered. It was certainly good to see Frankie Raymond back; his balls into the box were quality.
“On another day we could have won 3-1 but that’s football. Don’t forget we are just one or two wins from the play-off places in Conference South and that is now what we have to concentrate on.”
Eastbourne: Carey, Hamilton, Beale, Aldred, Simpemba, Raymond, Hare (Khinda-John 80), Parsons (Lok 57), Pacquette (Ashikodi 70), Johnson, McCallum. Unused subs: Worrall, Sinclair.
Lowestoft Town: Jones, Ainsley, Hayles, Gaughran, Haynes-Brown, Zielonka (Louis 81), Jarvis, Okay, Smith, Reed (Radomski (87), Bammant (Woods-Garness 70). Unused subs: Marsden, Jessup.
MoM: Darren Lok: made a huge impact when he came on, but sadly to no avail.
Referee Lee Venamore. MoM: Jake Reed. Att: 368.
Bookings: Frankie Raymond (Borough), Erkan Okay (Lowestoft).