Eastbourne Borough hit the road for league and cup clashes

Two road trips in four days, and two different competitions: Eastbourne Borough will chalk up a few miles this week – in pursuit of silverware and survival.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 12:00 pm
Danny Bloor embraces Eastbourne Borough winger Nick Wheeler. Picture by Lydia Redman
Danny Bloor embraces Eastbourne Borough winger Nick Wheeler. Picture by Lydia Redman

Tomorrow (Saturday) the Sports head to Essex for a tough away fixture in National South, at Chelmsford City. In a tight league table, they are still only six points above the drop zone, and the scrap for league points is relentless.

Last Saturday’s 3-3 thriller against St Albans may have offered five-star entertainment, but manager Danny Bloor would possibly have preferred a routine 1-0.

“There were a lot of emotions in a very short space of time! There were positives and negatives, but there was no doubting the entertainment value!

"But once we had got our breath back, we can count up eight points from the last possible twelve. That’s play-off form, and the mood in the camp is fantastic.

“Look at the character through the spine of our team. Ian Gayle, Kane Wills, Charlie Walker – fine players in their own right, but they care.

"As a manager I can send them on to the field knowing they will lead by example, marshalling the younger ones.

“We’ve a small squad but we are coping brilliantly. All the time you hear managers, from Premier League to County League, totting up their injuries and missing players.

"I say: we deal with it, we put out the best side we can, we weld together, and the players rise to it.

“This is proving a season not only of challenge, but of opportunity. Look at Franco Ravizzoli, Stephane Bombelenga, Jethro Hanson, Steven James, Ayman Gharbaoui – five players who are not paid a penny but are bursting to play for this club., and are an absolute credit.

"Stephane scores two in three games, and he’s not the finished article, but we’re showing him our faith in him.

"There is talent out there, and you just have to give the opportunity.”

Over the years, Chelmsford has not been the happiest of hunting grounds for Eastbourne Borough, as Danny ruefully recalls.

“Sometimes on previous visits Chelmsford City have outmuscled and outfought us. They are a strong physical side and one of the form teams in the league.

"We will need to reproduce the commitment and work-rate of our recent games. We will compete every ball from first whistle to last.”

Danny and his fellow coaches, Sergio Torres and Scott Chalmers-Stevens, are working team selection wizardry with their small squad – and they have an unwelcome headache with the three-match suspension of Dean Cox.

The experienced midfielder earned an instant red card last Saturday, for a stretching challenge which looked reckless but not malicious.

And after their visit to the Gulag – as even the home supporters affectionately call their clanking, metal-fenced athletics stadium – Borough face a challenging away tie on Tuesday (21st), in the quarter-finals of the Sussex Senior Cup.

They must take on League Two Crawley Town, in a match switched from the Broadfield Stadium to Horsham FC’s new ground with its 3G surface.

Ironically, Cox’s ban does not extend to the Sussex Senior Cup. He misses the next three National South games, against Chelmsford, Concord Rangers and Hemel Hempstead, but is available to take on Crawley Town – one of his former clubs – on Tuesday.

Two seasons ago, at the same stage, it was Dean’s inspired stoppage-time strike which hauled the Reds level at Priory Lane in a thrilling tie which Crawley went on to claim 4-3 with an extra-time penalty. The popular midfielder would relish a reverse of that scoreline on Tuesday.

Bloor this week paid warm tribute to Cox. “He has been superb since I’ve been back. In the past, peripheral people have questioned Dean’s commitment, but he has been massive for the cause, and his contribution to what we are doing at Borough is absolutely invaluable.

You can bet we will see that against Crawley.

The links between the two clubs extend from players to staff. Former Borough boss Lee Bradbury is now assistant to John Yems, who took over at the Broadfield last month after an autumn of sliding results.

And former Sports keeper – now Crawley goalkeeping coach – Dean Lightwood remains a popular figure at the Lane.

And as he prepared his side at Thursday’s training, Bloor finished with a rallying call.

“We’re not at home till Saturday week, but people of Eastbourne, come down and watch us play! Since I’ve been manager we’ve lost only one game at home – and even that (against Bath City) was a thriller. We’re getting the pride back and the passion back.”