WHOEVER emerges as the new manager of Eastbourne Borough will need to get his players believing in themselves again.
That is the view of caretaker boss Ben Austin after watching his team crash to Maidenhead United for the second time in three weeks on Saturday.
Austin watched the game on crutches following his midweek injury against Lewes, but any physical pain he was suffering must have been matched by the mental torment of seeing chances missed at one end and slack defensive play at the other.
As Borough took another worrying stumble towards the Blue Square Bet South relegation zone, Austin admitted that the players were suffering from a crisis of confidence.
“Today was a huge disappointment after having 60 to 65 per cent of the game,” he said. There is a real lack of confidence in the dressing-room and that is what we have got to work on, but it is very, very difficult to overcome.
Austin agreed that key moments at both ends had lost his team their 13th league game of the season – six at the one-time fortress of Priory Lane.
He said, “We had good chances at key points of the game and when you are on top goals change games. We were also guilty of poor marking in the box for the first goal. It is down to the individuals; players know their jobs and they have to be mentally and physically stronger in these situations.
“It sounds daft but I would argue that in spells over the last three games we have played better than we have in large parts of the season.
“But games are won and lost on fine margins. We have had good spells but have not capitalised on them. Other teams have had their spells and have cashed in.
“There is still a bit of a hangover after what has gone on and after a poor run of results confidence was low already and we have not been able yet to turn it around.
“We have to get the players believing again and the confidence returning. The new manager will have a big job to do when he comes in although he may feel when he looks at things that some of the players do not have the ability to find that confidence; who knows? One of the qualities of football is that when you have a bad game you turn up at the next one and put it to the back of your mind.
“But in the meantime we keep fighting. Next Saturday is another game.”
Two goals in three minutes did the damage for the Magpies who must have been grateful for the freedom afforded them by the home defence.
Borough had a great chance to get off to a flying start early on when Matt Crabb latched on to Ollie Rowe’s free-kick, cut in from the left only to shoot into the side netting from just six yards out.
Three minutes later Maidenhead were sitting on a 2-0 lead.
In the 14th minute, Daniel Brown’s free-kick was headed into the roof of the net by the unchallenged Leigh Henry who took full advantage of a free header.
A minute later nobody attempted to close down the always dangerous Manny Williams who was allowed to take the ball from midfield before unleashing a superb drive into the corner of the net from the edge of the area.
Borough did their best to get back into the game and Ross Treleaven had a great chance to reduce the deficit but headed straight at Billy Lumley from close range when all he needed to do was to place the ball either side of the keeper.
With the lively Steve Brinkhurst on for the injured Treleaven, Borough had much the better of the second half, but the well organised Maidenhead team did what Borough failed to do in the first half. They closed the path to goal resulting in few clear-cut chances being created.
But Maidenhead’s frustration at their lack of possession showed with three bookings for fouls in rapid succession.
Brinkhurst and captain-for-the-day Matt Smart went close and the busy Sam Cole saw a tremendous effort deflected for a corner.
But there was always the danger of a counter-attack and keeper Clark Masters had to be at his best to prevent Williams making it a 3-0 scoreline.
Borough’s misery was completed in stoppage time when Carl Rook headed against the bar after a corner had been flicked on.
Gary Charman, Simon Johnson and Sam Cole were the pick of the Borough players, but until chances are taken up front and defensive frailties ironed out, that elusive first home win since October will remain as likely as snow in the Caribbean.
Eastbourne: Masters 7, Baker 6, Cole7, Smart 7, Charman 7*, Rowe 6, Treleaven 5 (Brinkhurst 7 – sub 45mins), Johnson 7, Watson 6 (Hutchinson 76), Rook 6, Crabb 5 (Strevett 6 – sub 73 mins). Unused subs: Gilbert, Medlock.
Maidenhead: Lumley, Behzadi, Solomon, Brown, Henry, Scarborough, Powell, Hinds, Williams, Wall (Holgate 82), Tison-Lascaris (Semakula 71). Unused subs: McKain, Walker, Beasant.
Referee: Mr C Hicks 5.
MoM: Gary Charman: immense workrate. ATT: 572.