By Jamie Phillips
As Horsham celebrated promotion back to the Ryman League, it was a very different set of emotions at Eastbourne Town.
A superb strike from midfielder Brett Patton midway through the second period looked to be enough for the Saffrons, but a penalty from Tiago Andrade in the 93rd minute heaped more misery onto an already disappointing afternoon for Town.
John Lambert named an unchanged side after last weekend’s convincing win at Horsham YMCA, and it looked to have paid dividends as Eastbourne made the most of the early running.
The hosts forced Michael Chester into some fine saves early on, with Jason Taylor and Patton seeing their respective long distance efforts tipped wide by the Heath keeper.
Wes Tate’s corner then landed at the feet of Aaron Capon, whose strike beat Chester, but was cleared off the line by a host of bodies.
The visitors did grow into the game, though, as Jake Holmes scooped his shot over from eight yards out. Scott Weller also sprinted through on goal, but Greg Nessling got down well to keep it goalless going into the break.
The introduction of top-scorer Kenny Pogue gave a greater physical threat going forward for the Saffrons, and the striker was picked out by Taylor’s cross, but again Chester was on hand to tip his header over the bar.
Pogue was again involved as Patton picked out his run, but his volley from the apex of the box sailed comfortably over.
The game desperately need a goal, and it was a moment of quality from Patton that provided it.
Pogue held the ball up well before laying it off for Crabb, who in turn teed up the midfielder who saw his 20-yard strike fly into the top left-hand corner.Taylor so nearly doubled the advantage after jinking his way inside from the left and curling an effort narrowly over.
But as the match moved into its final stages, Eastbourne became content with sitting back and holding onto their slender advantage.
Broadbridge were always a threat, and a superb overhead kick from Andrade looked destined for the net but was headed away on the line.
As the third minute of injury time came, few would have been wrong to have thought Eastbourne Town had rounded off their home campaign with a win. But in the 93rd minute, Andrade was tripped inside the box, giving the visitors a late, late penalty. Andrade picked himself up and drilled the spot-kick into the left-hand corner, agonisingly beyond the reach of Nessling.
There was only time for the Saffrons to kick-off before the referee sounded his full-time whistle.
This draw comes as a little disappointment in the wider picture, with Town missing out on promotion back to the Ryman League at the first attempt after a run of now five points from five games having given Horsham the initiative.
Eastbourne will now look ahead to another promotion attempt next season, with a trip to Lancing their final outing of the campaign next weekend.
Eastbourne – Nessling, Willett, Smith, Darby, Turner, Sherrif, Taylor, Patton, Tate, Crabb, Capon
Subs – Rogers, Bolwell, Paul, Pogue, Gilbert
Referee: A Smith