After struggling to get even a sniff of the ball during a nightmare first half, Borough produced two quality finishes to send fellow middle-of-the-table opponents Chelmsford back to Essex wondering just how they had emerged pointless.
The game turned on a controversial decision by referee Carl Brook three minutes into the second half. City striker Jack Bridge appeared to be clearly felled by Kane Haysman inside the area, but as Borough fans held their breath expecting a penalty, the ref gave Borough a free-kick and Bridge a yellow card for diving. In fairness, most of the tight refereeing decisions have gone against Borough this season, but this one must surely have brought a smile to the face of boss Tommy Widdrington from his seat in the stand. And just to add more salt into Chelmsford wounds, the resultant free-kick found the hard-working Ryan Worrall whose shrewd through ball to Nat Pinney ended with Borough’s top scorer slotting perfectly past advancing keeper Christain Dibble.
The first half, however, will remain a bad memory for the hosts. Such was the visitors dominance of possession that a despairing fan from the stands shouted ‘Come on, Borough, join in!’
But for all City’s possession, chances were few and far between. They should have gone ahead in the 15th minute when Harry Morgan’s through ball found Billy Bricknell, but the top scorer’s tame effort from 10 yards failed to trouble Lewis Carey.
City struggled to penetrate the Borough defence and it was left to Mark Haines to provide the best effort, his ferocious 25-yarder scraping the bar.
Bricknell also went close a minute later when, following Reece Prestedge’s set piece lay-off his full-blooded strike took a deflection straight into the grasp of a much relieved Carey.
Borough did get a chance of their own when Haines lost possession to Jamie Taylor who fed Pinney. The striker opted to make a further pass to Haysman whose shot cannoned off a defender.
By this time even the Borough drums behind goal were silenced, but home supporters came back to life with a vengeance on the stroke of half-time when Sam Beale’s thunderous 25-yarder crashed against the bar. The second half opened dramatically with first the penalty incident and then Pinney’s goal which acted as a tonic to the whole team.
All of a sudden Borough were matching their shell-shocked opponents and even winning 50-50 balls. Taylor got the ball into the net but was denied by an offside whistle, while at the other end Carey performed wonders to turn a scorching Bricknell shot over the bar. But City frustrations were completed in the 84th minute when Darren Lok, who had been on just seven minutes, showed great skill to lob Dibble, the tallest player on the field, for the second, points-sealing goal. While City will return home wondering how they emerged pointless, one should give credit to Borough for taking two of the few chances that came their way against a side enjoying much improved fortunes under caretaker boss Kevin Mayer including recent 4-1 wins against Bishop’s Stortford and in-form Maidenhead.
Not long ago there were fears of relegation at Priory Lane. At the moment Borough are steadily climbing the table and the Easter games at St Alban’s City and at home to Havant & Waterlooville are winnable to say the least.
Dare any Borough fan still dream of that fifth play-off place? There are some strange results going on with teams at the top showing signs of nerves.
In the final month of the season Borough will face play-off candidates Sutton, Gosport and runaway leaders Ebbsfleet.
We all know they are capable of competing with the best and last week’s news that loanees Callum Buckley and Jake Sheppard are staying until the end of the season was music to the ears of Priory Lane fans.
It may take a miracle but the message to Borough supporters is: keep dreaming, the only certain thing about football is its uncertainty.
Eastbourne: Carey, Sheppard, Beale, Stone (Bosma 88), Simpemba, Buckley, Worrall, Kinder-John (McCallum 62), Pinney (Lok 77), Taylor, Haysman. Att: 481
Bookings: Stone (Borough), Bridge, Morgan (Chelmsford).