Back to business. With hopes of a glamorous cup run ended, Eastbourne Borough return to routine league action tomorrow (Saturday) with a trip to St Albans City – and a chance to kick-start their spluttering National South season.
These are tough days at Priory Lane. An exit from the FA Cup at Dulwich Hamlet last weekend has lowered Borough’s morale as well as shutting off a route to lucrative prize money. With a blank Saturday next week, and no home fixture for three weeks, the October income stream is no more than a dripping tap.
The Sports competed well at Dulwich and the final 3-0 scoreline flattered the hosts. A very early goal, and two flaky second-half penalties, separated the sides, but Borough had good spells of pressure without finding the net. Margins between success and failure are often fine ones, and the feeling persists that the current squad has more to offer than lower mid-table in National South.
The challenge for the manager is how – and perhaps in what team shape – he can coax the best from his players. Bradbury’s instinct is for three centre-backs plus wing-backs, an adventurous but quite open formation which is possibly a hard sell for players low on confidence. A conventional 4-4-2 might be safer and more solid.
The management duo of Bradbury and Shaun Gale have ample experience, and they will be weighing their options carefully. There is a way out of this, but league points are not earned on the whiteboard or the training ground. They are earned at three o’clock on Saturday by the guys in red shirts. And this Saturday, Borough should be eager, upbeat and optimistic of success.
Clarence Park, a leafy stroll from St Albans rail station, has a traditional feel and a slightly creaky elegance which makes for a warm welcome on Non-League Day. But Ian Allinson’s team is creaking, too, and Saints’ record of just two victories in eleven league games is almost identical to Eastbourne’s. Last Saturday they were turfed out of the FA Cup 4-1 by a rampant Weymouth team – for whom, ironically, former Sports favourite Yemi Odubade scored twice.
Opponents on a losing run, falling short of expectations, with grumbling fans and a manager under pressure? Hmmm.
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The last opponents to fit that description were Chelmsford City – who, just a fortnight ago, came to the Lane and hammered a hapless Borough side 4-0.
The stakes will be high, then, for both clubs – and Bradbury urgently needs his team to rediscover the gritty, uncharitable frame of mind which earned them battling draws on trips to Havant, Bath and Maidstone. A point would be acceptable, but a victory is perfectly possible if Borough can just light the fuse on their explosive scoring potential of Luer, Romain, Walker and company. It’s been a slow burner so far….
Fans and management alike will be encouraged by this week’s extension of loan deals for Millwall centre-back Jesse Debrah and exciting Reading youngster Roberto Nditi. Tobi Adebayo-Rowling is the only absentee from a squad which gives Bradbury options in all areas of the pitch.
Meanwhile, next Saturday’s home fixture with Weymouth – postponed because of the Terras’ FA Cup run – has been re-scheduled for Tuesday 29th October, at 7.45. Returning heroes? Let’s all hope so....