Pick yourselves up, dust yourselves off. Eastbourne Borough enter a testing bank holiday weekend still reeling from a 5-0 defeat at Braintree, which nobody saw coming.
No single game defines a season. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde; to lose one match 5-0 may be a misfortune, but to lose two would be seriously worrying.
All teams, even very good ones, can have one of those afternoons when nothing goes right. Frank Lampard’s new Chelsea were decimated at Old Trafford, but nobody wrote off the Blues’ season. And very much further down the ladder, the Sports can climb back. Just as long as losing does not become a habit...
Only three weeks in, and the National South has seen its share of surprising results.
Title favourites Havant smashed Dorking Wanderers – previously unbeaten – 6-0. And in their next game, against Chelmsford, the Hawks couldn’t buy a goal. Written-off Weymouth are riding high, expensively reshaped Dartford are struggling, and the Slough Town macine is still winless.
Until Saturday’s implosion at Braintree, Lee Bradbury’s side were making steady progress. They came within seconds of holding highly-fancied Billericay, they comfortably dispatched Tonbridge and they had arguably the better of the draws with Oxford City and Maidstone. At Braintree, the Sports were second best by a mile. What went wrong, and what needs to be put right?
Bradbury might tweak his preferred defensive shape of three centre-backs, or at least rein in his marauding wing-backs Tobi Adebayo-Rowling and Kris Campbell just a little, while the ship is stabilised.
In midfield, he is spoiled for choice, but the balance between the enforcers and the creators is tricky. The inventive talents of Dean Cox and Nicky Wheeler have so far had relatively few minutes on the pitch.
Finally, Borough’s potent strike force needs to deliver. Greg Luer and Elliott Romain – with Charlie Walker as back-up – have the guile, pace and strength to give opposing defences nightmares. Three goals in five games is not enough.
By National South standards, Borough really do look a top-half squad, but they still have everything to prove. The gruelling August fixture list gives little respite. Tomorrow (Saturday) the Sports welcome Dulwich Hamlet, physically powerful and backed by their cheerfully boisterous supporters.
Of three encounters last season, Borough won two, including a bizarre FA Cup victory in which ten-man Hamlet battled back from 4-0 down to a nerve-shredding 4-3. This season the South London outfit have added the goal threat of Danny Mills, who always seems to score against Borough. It should be a cracker, with Priory Lane also hosting a free-admission family fun day from lunchtime onwards.
And on bank holiday Monday, Bradbury leads his squad to Havant and Waterlooville, his former employers, for a real test of mettle. All outcomes are possible – except another 5-0.