Borough will travel to league leaders Maidenhead without fear
Eastbourne Borough are on the road tomorrow (Saturday) at National South leaders Maidenhead United - and on the evidence of recent weeks, they will be travelling without fear.
The mood around Priory Lane is buoyant at present - unbeaten since before Christmas and playing some very entertaining football.
Whitehawk were despatched with a festive Boxing Day flourish, Poole and Hungerford each escaped with scarcely deserved draws, and then Tuesday's Senior Cup win over Worthing saw the Sports playing with panache and fluency.
So, after a few false starts this season, are Tommy's boys truly up and running? Three tough games in the next eight days will test that theory. Next Tuesday Dartford, nicely in form and perhaps the promotion dark horses, visit Priory Lane, and on Saturday week (27th) Borough take the long haul to unpredictable Hemel Hempstead. And before that, it's Maidenhead.
August seems an age away now, when the Berkshire side pitched up at the Lane and - in a gripping game - sneaked off with three points after a classic mugging. The Sports played impressively on the night, but a contentious penalty - with a red card for Ian Simpemba - gave Maidenhead a 2-1 victory. Revenge is the wrong word, but Borough will need little extra motivation when Saturday comes.
Alan Devonshire's side are not league leaders by accident. At a glance, he has simply assembled a bunch of National South journeymen, but in fact they are seasoned, battle-hardened players who know the division. It may be about substance over style, but Maidenhead have a head of steam that will almost certainly keep them at or near the top until April.
"We know what we'll be up against," commented first team coach Hugo Langton. "Maidenhead are up there for a reason, and very good at what they do. In short, they are a team of men. We will prepare thoroughly and we'll have a game plan and stick to it.
"But these are the games you look forward to, both as players and as management. You're pitting your wits against the best in the division. But we're in good shape ourselves and we believe we can get something up there."
Widdrington is not exactly spoiled for choice in team selection, especially in defence. Kiran Khinda-John may return after a bout of tonsilitis, but Craig Stone remains suspended, and speedy wing-back Alex Smith remains doubtful with a groin injury. But Ryan Case filled the left-back slot with an impressive debut on Tuesday, and looks likely to keep his place.
Further forward, there are no fitness issues. Tommy can still perm any two from three of his main strikers, Pinney, Romain and Taylor, while young Josh Street enjoyed a very lively hour on the pitch against Worthing. All the front men are looking sharp. The Herald asked Jamie Taylor, in the nicest possible way, whether he hadn't been grateful to be a substitute on Tuesday, after a high-energy 90 minutes against Hungerford. "No chance," responded Taylor, 34 years young, "I turned up all ready to play! I've never met a striker who wanted to be on the bench!" Mr Widdrington, your troops are primed and ready....