Eastbourne Borough had to settle for a share of the points with Wealdstone on Saturday, grabbing a dramatic late equaliser – but was it the goal that wasn’t?
Ninety minutes were on the clock, with the home side trailing 1-0, when Borough striker met a high, steepling cross from the right with a downward header, which squeezed inside the post and nestled in the back of the net for 1-1. Or so it seemed.
Video replays of the incident questioned whether the big striker’s header had actually skimmed fractionally wide of the post, and then entered the goal through the side netting.
Internet rumours, of course, fly round the world before the truth has got its football boots on, but after repeated viewings of the video – posted on YouTube by the Wealdstone club – opinion had swung back towards a valid goal.
In its own little way, the footage could be up there with the Grassy Knoll in Dallas and the infamous 1966 Wembley goal. At best, the images are inconclusive, but there was certainly no protest at the time. And scorer Pacquette is seen to turn instantly away, both arms raised in – dare we say – an iconic Geoff Hurst goal salute.
Manager Tommy Widdrington, perhaps sensing a bit of mischief-making, was unmoved. “It’s yesterday’s news. Yes, I have seen it on YouTube, but I don’t think it went wide at all. It’s down to the referee and officials in any case.”
But all this was a curious postscript to an afternoon that had its frustrations for the Sports. Their performance was patchy and a bit disjointed, and the last-gasp draw was modest reward for a team still targeting the play-offs.
A healthy attendance of 763 was swelled by a large and noisy contingent from Wealdstone. And just 12 minutes in, the North Londoners got noisier as their team drew first blood.
Borough weakly defended a right-wing move, and as the ball was delivered low into the penalty area, Matt Ball swivelled and shot in a single movement to strike a fine goal in the bottom far corner.
It was an instant that defined the rest of the game. Wealdstone must already have had a game plan half-formed, to defend robustly with the classic “two lines of four”. Now, with a lead to sit on, that game plan was all the simpler. On a sluggish pitch, slick attacking football was difficult, and Eastbourne rarely dominated.
Widdrington’s two new signings did show genuine promise. Chris Sessegnon combined pace and control with excellent runs on the right, while Jack Evans was fitting swiftly into his midfield role.
The best couple of chances came on the half hour. Darren Lok seized on a poor goal kick and skipped past keeper Jonathan North, but the ball was nicked from his foot as he shaped to shoot. Then from the corner, Lok’s guided missile of a header was blocked right on the goal-line.
But it wasn’t working for the Sports, and around the hour mark Widdrington took action. He introduced three attacking substitutes, changing the shape and momentum of the team. Pacquette in particular was a new, thundering presence up front.
But the Stones, with no need to change tactics, stood firm, adding a quite cynical edge to their defending and racking up four yellow cards in 20 minutes.
Lok twice nipped in behind the defence but was foiled both times, and the minutes were draining away when Chris Sessegnon served up that lethal cross for Pacquette to head home – the goal that wasn’t? The goal that was!
Borough: Carey; Khinda-John (Pacquette 56), Hamilton, Adam Watts; Sessignon, Johnson (Haysman 68), Evans, Raymond, Beale; McCallum (Pinney 73), Lok. Unused subs: Worrall, Aldred.
Wealdstone: North, Martin, Ryan Watts, Parker, Cronin, Godfrey, Wright (Manvila 87), Corcoran, Louis (McGleish 79), Ball, O’Nien.
Referee: Chris Pollard Att: 763
MoM: Chris Sessegnon – a bright start to his Borough career