Eastbourne Town are out of the FA Trophy after 1999 and 2000 competition winners Kingstonian came from behind to progress to the next round.
It was a plucky performance from the Saffrons outfit, who led through a 46th minute own goal before two late goals from former Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton Athletic marksman, Wade Small, in the last 15 minutes secured the home win.
It was a cruel result for the visitors as they deserved something from the game having given such a positive and committed performance throughout.
Town boss Danny Bloor was denied the services of Ben Austen who, with Steve Elliott and Adam Davidson, was missing through injury. Sonny Cobbs returned to the back line to partner Town skipper Nick Fogden and Ben Billings came into the side in his usual wide left role.
The Ryman League hosts, entertaining Town for the first time in three years, started the game better and much quicker. Early chances fell to Andre McCollin and Craig Mullen but the visitor’s rearguard stood strong and firm. McCollin then worked a ‘one on one’ chance but Sam Reed narrowed the angles well and the ‘K’s forward rolled his shot wide. Reed then did well to collect a cross as he was flattened by the robust Mullen.
Town, having been a little careless with the ball in the early stages, started to get a foothold in the game and a deep John Lansdale cross was headed behind as Town’s confidence grew. Danny Curd was then played in but Rob Tolfrey in the home goal saved well.
The lively Richard Greenfield delivered a dangerous cross that was well defended and, from the ensuing Lansdale long throw, Sonny Cobbs climbed highest but headed narrowly over the crossbar.
As Town picked up the pace, the home defence started to look a little nervy and unsettled. A super Matt Crabb free kick was turned behind for a corner and then Curd beat his way through the ‘K’s defence but, once again, the home keeper saved well.
On 35 minutes, the hosts’ Simon Huckle had a glorious chance to open the scoring but he put his header wide. Steve May then blocked a McCollin shot before sending Greenfield away. The pacey wideman worked the ball to Matty Crabb and, from his cross, a diving Curd header flashed wide of the home goal. Matt Crabb then fired wide from 20 yards and Cobbs headed over from yet another excellent Crabb corner as the half closed without score.
Eastbourne Town took the lead within seconds of the re-start. Greenfield left a couple of defenders in his wake as he drove into the Kingstonian box, his crisp shot beat Tolfrey but bounced back off the post. Big centre back Kieran Murphy could do nothing to get out of the way and the ball rebounded off him into the net to put the visitors in front. Soon after, good link up play between Greenfield and Lansdale ended with a strongly hit cross shot that eluded everyone.
The home side hit back and the dangerous McCollin burst through to fire wide. Almost immediately, Nick Fogden was lucky not to concede a penalty as Dean Lodge outpaced him in the box. The strength Fogden showed forced Lodge to the floor but all home appeals were waved away by Referee Stephen Woodison.
The hosts started to get on top again and Steve May came to his side’s rescue as he blocked brilliantly, as Town’s defence struggled to recover after an Eastbourne corner. The visitors started to give cheap free kicks away but they defended these manfully, with Cobbs outstanding in the heart of their defence.
With Eastbourne Town coming under more and more pressure, the home side made a double substitution on 65 minutes that turned the game in their favour. Ex pro Wade Small and Matt Pattison came on to beef up their attacking options. With Town holding on to their solitary goal lead, a great defensive header from Nick Fogden again kept the home side out as wave after wave of attacks rained down on the visiting defenders.
With 15 minutes to play, Danny Curd had a great chance to put Eastbourne two goals to the good but his header from a Matt Crabb cross went wide. Within a minute the hosts had drawn level as Wade Small showed strength and nous to hold off a number of challenges before turning to fire home. Town still looked to rally and only a world class save from Tolfrey kept the scores level. A powerful Fogden header was destined for the net before Tolfrey, somehow, from an impossible position, bent backwards to save brilliantly.
The winner arrived on 82 minutes with Dean Lodge jinking inside John Lansdale before shooting across Reed. The big keeper saved well but could only palm the ball to the feet of Wade Small who had the simple task of rolling the ball home to secure victory and a place for Kingstonian FC in the next round of the FA Carlsberg Trophy.
Eastbourne Town came out of the game with immense credit and pride having pushed their rivals hard. They will look to replicate this performance next Saturday when Chipstead visit the Saffrons for a Ryman League match.
ETFC: Reed 7, Lansdale 7, Sutton 7, Cobbs 8, Fogden 7, Greenfield 8, May 8*, Strevett 7, Curd 8, Billings 7, M.Crabb 7.
Subs: S.Crabb 7 (for Greenfield 73 mins), Geard 7 (for Billings 78)
Bookings: Lansdale, Cobbs and Geard
Starman: Steve May - all action performance