Finish the season in style! That is Tommy Widdrington’s call to both fans and players as Eastbourne Borough head for the Amex tonight (Friday) in pursuit of the Sussex Senior Cup.
If the Sports can overcome Worthing at Brighton’s Falmer stadium, it will be their first trophy in Widdrington’s four seasons at Priory Lane, and the manager would love to bring home the silverware.
“As a club, we continue to make real tangible progress in all departments, but of course we want to be winning on the field of play. This would be a very fitting end to our 50th anniversary season, and I know that we can rise to the occasion.
“The final league position - although not necessarily the season as a whole - has been disappointing. There is a quite narrow margin between succeeding in the league and missing out. At our best, we were and are the equal of any club at our level, and now we have a final chance to prove that.”
The Senior Cup campaign has been a shaft of light throughout the season. Convincing home wins over Worthing United and Three Bridges took Borough on a challenging quarter-final trip to the muddy acres of Littlehampton, where they overcame bruising opposition by 3-1. Then a semi-final thriller against Bognor Regis Town at Lancing went to extra time before Elliott Romain’s header clinched a 3-2 victory.
Tommy has taken the competition seriously, consistently fielding strong sides, and his preparation for the Final has been fully professional. “It’s been a strange situation, playing an important game three weeks after we finished our league programme. We gave the lads a fornight off, with strict instructions to look after themselves, and then this week we have had two really good full training sessions.
“Any player at our level would bite your hand off for a Final at the Amex, but they know that they have been battling for their places on merit this week. I know that for the supporters, the Senior Cup is a really grand night out to be relished, but for my team, there is a professional job to do. We will be well prepared and we want to finish in style. The fans can do the celebrating, but only if we have done them justice on the field.”
And despite Worthing’s difference in status, a very equal contest is in prospect. The Rebels have enjoyed a true renaissance this season, storming to promotion from Ryman South to Ryman Premier with two resounding play-off victories, and their energetic front-foot style saw them knock out Whitehawk - also in extra time - in their own Senior Cup semi-final.
Worthing are managed by former Sports favourite Gary Elphick, always a popular figure around the Sussex football circuit, but old friendships will be left on the sidelines at least until after the game.
Widdrington has almost full resources to call upon. Bouwe Bosma is the only injury absentee, and Darren Lok has departed for his new adventure in Malaysia, but otherwise everyone is available - including the three young loanees who impressed at the end of the season. Reading’s Jake Sheppard will be hoping for a start at full-back and Callum Buckley was a commanding centre-back figure in Borough final run-in. Buckley’s AFC Bournemouth colleague Matt Worthington is also in the frame.
And as the manager works on shaping his squad for next season, the players know that their Amex performances will be under close scrutiny. Several deals were agreed this week and Widdington will be weighing up his further options.
Football chairman John Bonar, meanwhile, says the whole club is on the march to the Aex. “This is perfect timing in terms of crowning the anniversary year - but we want to win it and not just go for the jolly jaunt. We are expecting a really close game and we need the full body of supporters cheering us on. We have sold many hundreds of tickets via the club , and I know that many more have purchased them via the Albion office.
“We had the great honour of kicking the very first ball at the new Amex stadium, for its opening game in the 2011 Final, and we haven’t been back since. We want to make Friday night another milestone on the club’s journey.
“There is remarkably buoyant feeling around the Lane at the moment. The new pitch is being laid as we speak, the club structure is the soundest it has ever been, and there are a lot of new plans in the pipeline. The Senior Cup is not the be-all and end-all, but we are overdue to bring it back to Priory Lane.”
Tickets (£10 and concessions) can be purchased at the turnstiles, and the Final kicks off at 7.30pm - not at 7.45pm - to allow for possible extra time.
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