Rowland’s first season will live long in the memory

Eastbourne United
Eastbourne United

It’s been an unforgettable season at the Oval, one that nobody could have predicted at the start of the campaign.

Promotion from Sussex County Division Two was secured a while ago, while the league title was the icing on the cake for a side that was only assembled in the summer.

United captured the imaginations of the entire county with their magnificent run to the FA Vase semi-final and few would have expected such instantaneous success, given the upheaval over the summer.

As Paul Daubeney left for pastures new, Simon Rowland was installed at the United helm and was given the task of replacing an entire squad.

Top-scorer Liam Baitup jumped ship for a short and ill-fated stint with neighbours Eastbourne Town but the new boss wasted no time in adding his own faces.

Experienced centre-back Shaun Loft was Rowland’s first signing and was immediately given the captaincy,

Playmaker Wes Tate was brought in from Peacehaven and along with target-man McBride, they would form the spine of a team that would go on to terrorise Sussex defences.

The early signs were good as United brushed Rustington aside with consumate ease in Rowland’s first game in charge.

McBride notched his first goals for the club, while young winger Jason Taylor did likewise.

Incredibly United wouldn’t taste defeat in the league until March and they racked up some impressive wins along the way.

Saltdean United and fellow title-chasers Loxwood felt the full force of their lethal attack in 7-0 and 5-2 victories.

But perhaps their season will be most fonbdly remebered for the exploits in various cup competitions.

Football League One outfit Crawley Town visited the Oval in the Sussex Senior Cup with seasoned professionals Gary Alexander and Sergio Torres in tow.

To a man, United were superb and duly saw them off 2-0 despite a nine division gap between the two sides.

They beat teams from higher leagues in every signle round of the FA Vase with Phoenix Sports, Chessington & Hook, South Park,and Hanwortrh Villa all defeated before the last-16.

Morpeth Town, who play in a division that has supplied a finalist in the competition for the past six years then travelled all the way down from Durham, and while they were much fancied, United put in arguably their best performance of the season as the imperious Tate inspired them to a 6-1 win.

Ampthill were beaten to secure a place in the semi-final and a battling 2-2 draw at Sholing had everyone dreaming of a place at Wembley.

It wasn’t to be unfortunatley as the Southampton side were too strong in the second leg and United were narrowly edged out despite a spirited second half fightback.

They’ll be back to do battle next year though and with Rowland’s side on an upward curve they could challenge for promotion in Division One as well.