Eastbourne Borough lost their final fixture of 2013, as two goals from Tonbridge Angels forward Mark Lovell earned the Kent side a controversial win at a muddy Longmead Stadium on Saturday (writes Stephen Kent).
Local volunteers did a heroic job to get the pitch ready in time for the match after the recent heavy weather that battered the country, however it would the travelling side that got off to the best start in the opening minutes.
Tom Derry and Gary Hart both tested Angels keeper Lewis Carey with their shots on goal, but it was Adam Watts’s 15-yard volley off Frankie Raymond’s corner that prompted a spectacular save off the line from the former Bristol City man.
Hart was involved again a few minutes later in the other end of the pitch as he was twice brought down harshly by Chris Piper, with the defender to be seen as lucky to only have received the one yellow card from referee Lloyd Wood.
The momentum then swung in Tonbridge’s favour as the surging Tom Lovell headed just over the bar from a well placed Dominic Green cross, before then opening the scoring for the Angels on 33 minutes.
In what was described as a “perfectly executed training pitch goal” by the locals, Gavin McCallum’s corner kick found Piper at 35 yards, who drilled the ball through all the bodies in the box and was then flicked in at the near post by Lovell.
A few minutes later Carey pulled off another unworldly save, denying Jamie Taylor from six yards with an outstretched arm after the striker was played in by a slick cross by Simon Johnson, leaving the Sports scratching their heads, wondering why they hadn’t found the back of the net at half time.
The second half started slowly so Sports manager Tommy Widdrington brought on the attacking pair of Darren Lok and Chris Shephard in place of Derry and Hart to try and bring themselves back into the match.
They had two good chances to open their account moments later, with Taylor’s unchallenged header cleared off the line by Sonny Miles and Lok’s surging run in to the box was stopped just outside the six-yard box.
In what was another defining moment for Boro, Piper made another harsh challenge, this time on Shephard, and was once again not shown a second yellow card, to the dismay of the visiting side and their 100 travelling fans.
However they did have something to cheer for eight minutes later as Boro levelled the match, with Lok hammering in a loose ball at six yards after Raymond’s corner kick was subsequently chipped back in by Johnson.
Unfortunately for the Sports their goal was to be cancelled out just three minutes later in what would be the defining moment of the game.
On the 82nd minute Sam Cole was shown red for handling Lovell’s goal-bound effort from close range after a scramble in the box.
Lovell then duly completed his brace from the penalty spot to once again send the Angels into the lead.
10-man Boro fought back valiantly to salvage a point from the game, winning three close range free kicks in the dying minutes.
Unfortunately Shephard couldn’t convert them which condemned the visitors to their second loss against bottom-half table opposition in as many matches.
Tonbridge Angels: Carey, Piper (Suarez ‘73), Watts, Lovell (Ijaha ‘86), Miles, Heath, Muggeridge (Appiah ‘90), Browning ©, McCallum, Goodwin, Green
Unused Subs: Slocombe, Masters
Eastbourne Borough: Ross, Deaman, Cole, Stinson, Simpemba ©, Watts, Taylor, Raymond, Derry (Lok ‘56), Johnson, Hart (Shephard ‘62)
Unused Subs: Gorman, Rowe, Akokhia
PICTURED ABOVE: Jamie Taylor BELOW: Simon Johnson