Two excellent poacher’s goals from Darren Lok earned Eastbourne Borough three vital points at Gosport, in a contest that stayed in the balance until the very last kick.
No two games of football are quite alike. Pitch, weather, frame of mind, tactics, even the referee’s judgement or a little twist of fortune – any of those factors can shape a game. And on Tuesday night it was just about all of those factors.
Hosts Gosport, in their curious dual role of FA Trophy finalists and prime relegation candidates, are not a great side but they play to their strengths, and their direct, quite physical style suited the conditions and made them a persistent threat.
For much of the game Wembley seemed to play heavy on Gosport’s minds and legs, after their epic semi-final victory on Saturday. But in the last half-hour the desperate need for league points spurred them on and created an frantic, bristling end to the game.
Borough’s start was impressive. Determinedly sticking to their passing game in spite of the cloying surface, they pressed Gosport back. Chris Shephard was alive with quick, creative movement and the front pair of Darren Lok and Tom Derry were unsettling the home defence.
On 35 minutes the Sports got the deserved opener. Deaman powered through from midfield and his shot was parried by Ashmore, only for Lok to pounce like lightning and bury the loose ball from six yards.
A minute after the break Derry, revelling in his best performance yet in a Borough shirt, raced away down the left, and his low cross perfectly set up Lok for a decisive second finish. 2-0,
For a spell Gosport, with two substitutions, surprisingly found an extra gear and they carried the game to Borough. And with captain Jamie Brown earning a red card on 67 minutes for an awful midfield challenge, the game should have been won and lost.
When Widdrington then sent on Ryan Worrall, his plan was doubtless to ease the promising young Academy midfielder into a trauma-free twenty minutes of Conference football. It turned out to be as eventful a closing spell as Eastbourne have experienced all season.
With 12 minutes left, a diagonal pass slipped past Adam Watts – the centre-back’s only error of an impressive night – and Dan Wooden ran through to smack an angled shot past Ross and just inside the far post. Game on.
Four minutes later, with tempers rising and a clear head needed from the referee of all people, Rob Ellis flashed an instant red card at Jack Deaman, for a tackle which looked a simple foul at most. Borough were aghast, not least because five yards away under Mr Ellis’s nose, Shephard lay crumpled in the mud after a much uglier unpunished Gosport foul.
But the Sports kept their heads and saw out the final phase. Lok might have completed his hat-trick and in the fifth minute of stoppage time, a last-gasp marauding move was thwarted by Ross with a superb save which the big keeper made to appear almost nonchalant. Phew.
Borough: Ross; Deaman, Rowe, Simpemba, Watts, Cole; Aldred, Raymond ( Worrall 70), Shephard (sub Long 87); Derry ( Hammond 75), Lok. Unused subs: Levy, Tallack.
Referee: Rob Ellis (Coventry)
MoM: Darren Lok – perpetual motion and two cracking goals