On January 3 in 1892 author of the Lord of the Rings JRR Tolkien was born. How Eastbourne Borough could have done with some of the magic Tolkien dreamed up on Bank Holiday Monday.
It’s a win, rather than a ring, which manager Garry Wilson is searching for just now – this defeat prolonged the winless league run to 11 league matches and plunges them into the relegation zone.
Even the return of the king, or local favourite at least – James Norwood – couldn’t spur the Sports to three points.
Former Eastbourne Town man Norwood, making his home debut after signing on loan from Exeter City last week offered fleeting moments of excitement, but first-half strikes from Robbie Willmott and Wayne Gray extended Boro’s festive frustration.
This was the match which Wilson would have earmarked as the one most likely to yield a positive result.
Cambridge arrived in Sussex short of confidence and with boss Martin Ling under pressure. But Boro couldn’t take advantage. Norwood twice forced the opposing ‘keeper into action in the opening seconds, yet by the third minute his side were behind.
Danny Wright’s right-flank cross was nodded in by Willmott, who had arrived unchecked at the back post. It wasn’t until mid-way though the half that Boro threatened, when Luton loanee Dan Walker, starting wide on the right, broke through the middle and drew a smart save from Danny Naisbitt.
But there was little more for the home crowd to cheer before the break and on 32 minutes they fell further behind as Willmott cut in from the left and squared the ball to Wayne Gray who tapped in from close range.
Finally after the interval Boro showed some signs of life – as Matt Crabb began to drift in from the flanks. He stung Naisbitt’s palms with a fierce shot before delivering a series of dangerous corners, which had the Cambridge defence in a panic. From one of these centres skipper Gary Elphick came close, but James Jennings was on hand to scramble off the line. But that, with 14 minutes remaining, was the extent of the Sports’ threat.
It could be a long winter at Priory Lane. The middle earth of mid-table looks a long way off.
Wilson said afterwards, “With two sides that are really struggling the first goal is crucial. We gave them a cheap goal, gave them the upper hand. In the second half we were better than them, if we had shown that in the first half we could have got a result.
“But there were big personalities missing today, we had a real worry yesterday when we knew the position we were in. You’ve just got to look at what we’re missing from the start of the season to today. We’ve played the top two teams away from home and it’s taken its toll.
“We’ve got a run of home games to come, so we must make the home games count from now on in.”
Borough: Banks 6; Nelson 6, Baker 6, Elphick 6, Jenkins 6; Walker 7, Smart 5, Strevett 7, Matt Crabb 7; Atkin 5 (Nathan Crabb 78), Norwood 7 (Brinkhurst 78). Subs not used: Johnson, Weatherstone, Barton.
MoM: Ethan Strevett: the bright prospect came to the fore after half time.
Cambridge United: Naisbitt; Roberts, Coulson, Partridge, Jennings; Russell, Carden, Saah, Willmott; Gray (Clare 68), Wright.
Subs not used: Brown, McAuley, Platt, Marriott.
Booked: Jennings, Saah, Wright
Goals: Willmott 3, Gray 32
Referee: Mr T Robinson