Tony Reid and Sammy Donnelly oversaw another improved Eastbourne Town display on Saturday by beating last year’s FA Vase finalists, Tunbridge Wells in a thriller of an FA Cup tie.
In front of a season’s best gate of 235, the home side moved into the second Qualifying Round after a game full of commitment and goals and high on entertainment.
They also earned £3000 in FA prize money for their splendid efforts.
Town’s only change from the excellent, morale boosting, late comeback against Leatherhead in midweek saw Ryan Cooper replace the suspended Ross Sutton at left fullback.
Town started the game at full charge and, had Billy Medlock had his shooting boots on, the hosts could have been two goals to the good by the time the Town Hall clock struck five past three.
With Town first to the ball all over the park and, with the Tunbridge Wells team hesitant and on the backfoot, it took a special goal to open the scoring and that duly arrived on 19 minutes through Andrew Mensah.
The powerful and exciting striker received the ball in midfield, some 35 yards from goal, and, having used his head to cushion the pass, in one move he let fly with a ferocious volley that dipped over the despairing dive of the Wells’ keeper and into the net, at the Meads end of the ground. There will not be a more spectacular goal at the Saffrons than this all season.
The lively Aaron Watson, having his best game in a Town shirt, caused particular problems for the Wells defence with his trickery on the wing and he should have added to Town’s tally but, when well placed, he blasted wide of the far post.
Having faced an early bombardment, Tunbridge Wells started to settle and they drew level from a Brett Ince free kick.
Ince showed good composure and technique to curl the ball past Greg Nessling, into the bottom corner of the Town net. This goal sparked the visitors into life and, with a renewed belief, they finished the half the stronger, dominating possession up to the break.
The second half started as the first had, with Town making the running and in the ascendancy. Their enterprise was rewarded when Mensah got to a loose ball first but the Town striker was tripped by the onrushing Wells’ keeper.
There were no complaints as the referee blew to give the penalty. Billy Medlock stepped up to take the spot kick but was unable to beat the keeper, who saved low down to keep the game level and his team in the Cup.
Within minutes, Richard Greenfield sent in a great cross that Medlock got his head to, however, he was thwarted once more as the ball thudded against the Wells’ crossbar and away to safety.
The game saw chances for both sides as it became end to end fare and a really typical non-league cup tie.
The noisy away supporters giving their side added impetus at times, as they sought the winning goal.
It was Town that finally made the decisive breakthrough, scoring another excellent, well worked goal.
Greenfield and Mensah combined well to open up the visitor’s defence, and from a great cross, the tireless Medlock lost his marker and finished with a great header to restore their lead and send the Town support into raptures of delight.
As the game wore on the visitors continued to cause problems for the Town defence but a breakaway goal sealed the match for the home team.
Mensah’s long ball from out wide saw a Tunbridge Wells defender and their keeper hesitate, this allowed the alert Watson to nip in to lob the ball over the keeper and into the empty net.
Tunbridge Wells did manage a consolation goal at the death, scored by Ian Parsons, to set up a nervy final minute of added time but it was Town who advanced into the next round following a great team display.
It was one that had both manager, Tony Reid, and assistant, Sammy Donnelly, smiling from ear to ear at the final whistle.
In the next round Eastbourne Town will face either Hartley Wintney or Camberley Town - Both play in the Combined Counties League.
Town: Nessling 7, Daly 7, Cooper 6 (Brown 5), Pollard 7, Mbaye 7, Battie 5(Vaughan 6), Greenfield 7, Davidson 6, Medlock 7, Mensah 7, Watson 8 .
MOM: Aaron Watson - a constant threat and his best game in a Town shirt by far. Att: 235