AFTER their fifth home league defeat of the season, Eastbourne Borough are still searching for the consistency that could land them a final play-off spot come the end of the season.
On Saturday, they succumbed to one of the best goals seen at Priory Lane this season, a 30-yard thunderbolt from Nigel Atangana that Craig Ross could only watch as it screamed into the top corner of the net.
But with 13 matches remaining all is far from lost and chief coach Darren Baker believes Borough could still sneak it.
“On our day we are capable of beating any team in the league, but we need to find consistency,” he said. “We can play really attractive football but too often we struggle against the lower teams.
“It is not a question of lack of effort, but consistency is the frustrating thing at the moment.
“There are three or four other teams in contention for that final play-off place and now is the time to put a good run together.”
A key factor in the struggle could rest on the fitness of Chris Shephard who was missing on Saturday suffering from a recurrence of a hamstring injury.
“I rate him as one of the best players in the league,” said Baker. “He also brings other players to life and gets the best out of those around him.”
With so many postponements, the Skrill South table has a strange look about it at the moment.
Havant’s victory over Borough was their fourth in eight days without conceding a goal - and that was with 18-year-old Academy keeper Charlie Searle between the posts – their third choice keeper.
But while his handling was faultless, Borough rarely tested him seriously, so well organised was the visitors’ defence.
Havant suffered a setback when Scott Jones, who had been inches away from giving his team the lead, hobbled off in the 27th minute and was replaced by Christian Nanetti, leaving them with just one recognised striker on the field.
But three minutes later, the points were secured when Atangana’s stunning strike gave Ross no chance.
Borough were close to levelling just before the interval when Ian Simpemba’s header from Frankie Raymond’s free-kick was superbly saved by Searle Havant came out in the second half anxious to make the game safe and Dennis Oli should have made it 2-0 when he lifted Daniel Blanchett’s cross over the bar from six yards.
Borough had spells of pressure but clearcut chances were at a premium and Havant looked far more dangerous on counter-attacks.
Several home players looked off the pace and it was left to Lewis Tallack to test Searle a second time with a fine shot after a good run.
It was Havant who often looked hungrier for the ball and more likely to add to their tally and Ross had to be at his best to keep out a blockbuster from Ryan Woodford with Adam Watts finally scrambling the ball off the line to safety.
Havant now face the biggest backlog of any team in the league to complete their fixtures by the end of April.
Borough meanwhile go to Basingstoke tonight, hoping to embark on another good run that will reignite their play-off hopes.
There is still a long way to go and just about anything could happen.
One thing, though, is certain. Borough need Shephard back soon – fit and at his best.
Eastbourne: Ross, Tallack, Gorman (Akokhia 88), Aldred (Levy 77), Simpemba, Watts, Long (Johnson 59), Raymond, Hammond, Lok, Deaman. Unused subs: Rowe, Worrall.
Havant & Waterlooville: Searle, Newton, Blanchett, Ryan, Monterio, Woodford, Ciardini (Ramsay 66), Atangnana, Oli, Jones (Nanetti 27), Donnelly (Hutchinson 66). Unused subs: Przespolewski, Cummings.
MoM: Elvis Hammond: – never stopped working but sadly no end product.
Referee: Mr G. Jerden.
RIGHT: Matt Aldred battles away in midfield BELOW: MOM: Elvis Hammond shields the ball from the Havant defence - Lydia Redman