Keen contests and tight results? Key marginals? The Reds of Eastbourne Borough are head to head with the Blues of Chippenham Town at Priory Lane tomorrow (Saturday) in a crucial National South encounter.
After three successive victories since taking control, the Borough Coalition – Danny Bloor, Sergio Torres and Scott Chalmers-Stevens – have seen their approval ratings nudging cautiously upwards. And a win over the Bluebirds – who lie neck and neck with the Sports – would have the management team looking upwards rather than over their shoulders in the league table.
Torres himself is the only likely absentee, as the popular assistant manager continues to nurse a back injury, and the starting eleven is taking on a settled look. “We have a shape, we have ability, we have phenomenal commitment,” says Bloor. “There is a whole lot of experience out there. We have players who can manage a game and players who can turn a game.
“We know what Chippenham can do and we are in for a tough game. But there are no givens in this league, no easy fixtures. You have to respect every opponent.”
Tomorrow sees a whole set of social – although not political – causes embraced at the Lane. There will be a collection for Prostate Cancer research, and supporters are also being urged to bring donations in kind for the Eastbourne Food Bank and for the Hygiene Bank. And in support of the LGBT+ Rainbow campaign, skipper Kane Wills will be sporting the Rainbow armband.
Some supporters did vote with their feet in staying away from last Saturday’s 3-1 FA Trophy victory over Hartley Wintney – secured in front of a disturbingly low 278 spectators. But the all-pay regulation always drags the crowd figures down for Trophy fixtures, and club officials will hope for at least double that number in the next round, when the Sports welcome Salisbury.
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High-profile Steve Claridge has rebuilt the Wiltshire club after the original Salisbury City folded, and his new Whites are among the leaders in the Southern Premier – the same division as Hartley Wintney. They will bring strong travelling support, and Priory Lane should witness one of the ties of the round.
Manager Bloor was impressed with his final substitute on Saturday. Sixteen-year-old Ben Overton – who is the third generation of his family to represent the Sports – slotted in immaculately up front for the closing minutes, and Ben very nearly slotted in a crowning goal.
“These youngsters, the Overtons and Astles and Blackmores, are the future of our club and they are the way we want to go. They are already gaining useful experience, simply by being involved with the first team, in training, on the bench, travelling with us. We are one club.”
And the coaching team will spend December counting numbers and nursing any bruised limbs, as a small squad faces a daunting fixture list. Between this weekend and New Year’s Day, the Sports will play at least nine first-team games. After Chippenham, the next visitors to arrive at the Lane are AFC Uckfield, on Tuesday evening (7.45pm) for a Sussex Senior Cup tie which is sure to be keenly contested.
Oh, and in case the colour-coded introduction to this piece appears to breach the Herald’s careful political neutrality: the shirts may be red and blue, but the Priory Lane 3G pitch tomorrow will be a bright shimmering green. And both linesmen will be waving orange flags…