Eastbourne Borough hope to use FA Cup momentum against Chelmsford City
They turned the match round. Can they now turn the season round? Eastbourne Borough return to Priory Lane tomorrow (Saturday), looking to recapture the momentum from last week’s dramatic FA Cup win at Tonbridge.
The Sports conceded an early penalty but then recovered from a listless and soulless first-half, to take total control of the tie, winning 2-1 with cracking goals from Nicky Wheeler and Elliott Romain.
The drastic turn-about was welcomed with delight – and possibly some surprise – by their ecstatic travelling support. And, after a patchy and disappointing start to the league season, the Borough faithful will look for more of the same.
The National League South table still looks wide open, and any club putting a decent run together can still climb rapidly. But Borough need to repeat the Tonbridge trick, preferably without that awful first half, when they return to the Lane tomorrow.
Visitors Chelmsford are not in great shape. Strongly supported and generously funded, they have under-achieved this season and sit just two places above Borough in the National League South table, after a string of poor league results.
But last Saturday the Clarets caught the eye for all the wrong reasons, tumbling out of the FA Cup 2-0 against Corinthian Casuals – arguably the biggest upset of the round. City supporters, whose expectations are frequently on the high side, were scathing afterwards.
Manager Rod Stringer is quite a folk hero at the club, but he had to ride out comments like "run out of ideas... end of his tenure" and "Total shambles, no clue, no plan!" And, in perhaps the ultimate non-league fans' put-down: "This was on a par with Biggleswade...."
It all adds up to real pressure on Stringer, whose playing budget is significantly higher than Bradbury’s, if the grapevine is to be believed. But former boxer Stringer is a shrewd and uncompromising battler, and the away dressing room at the Lane will have no corners to hide in, if his players fail again.
The Sports boss has fewer, if any, headaches. The injury crisis of a fortnight ago has cleared, and only Tobi Adebayo-Rowling is missing. The popular young full-back cheerfully sported the protective boot on his broken foot at Tonbridge, projecting a return within a month.
Otherwise, Bradbury has a squad which can cover all bases. Snatching the Cup victory last week, the players did not simply raise their game; they changed the team shape – twice – in an intelligent second-half performance.
A team with an engine-room of Torres, Wills, Dean Cox, Mike West - all experienced playmakers - ought to do that week by week. Borough have yet to set the league alight, but the tinder is smouldering.