By Kevin Anderson
The nightmare at Weston Super Mare. Eastbourne Borough’s long trek westwards finished in despair on Saturday as four second-half goals condemned them to a 5-1 drubbing.
In hindsight, this was one of the most unwelcome of fixtures for Jamie Howell at a stage of the season where he still seeks a settled side. Weston have lost only one of their last nine National South matches, taking points off all the leading clubs, and at home their notoriously front-foot style always catches out travel-weary opponents. On this form, the Somerset Seagulls would have beaten any team in the league, and as Weston posed all the questions, the Sports were alarmingly short of answers.
It took only six minutes for the Sports to fall behind, as a Weston corner was headed powerfully in at front post by Greenslade for 1-0. The scoreline did not change until 43 minutes, when Lloyd Dawes chased a lost-cause ball to the right corner, held it up well and crossed for Gavin McCallum to strike an absolute peach of a half-volley for 1-1. As it turned out, it was the best moment of Borough’s afternoon. In between those goals, Weston had several chances, but a couple were badly missed, a couple more well saved by Bailey Vose, while Kiran Khinda-John – who had a fine first half - cleared one certain goal off the line.
Weston were full of football: quick and slick, and willing to take risks in the cause of creating scoring chances. Borough meanwhile were not awful at this stage of the match. They were on the back foot, certainly, but defending under pressure is a part of any team’s profile, and the Sports did it stoutly.
Going forward, there was less to be excited about. Harry Ransom hit one decent early shot into the side netting, Will Hendon saw a good cross cleared, Jamie Taylor flicked one superb pass which almost set Dawes away, but he was caught by a defender. So half-time arrived with Borough hanging in at 1-1.
The opening of the second half set the pattern for rest of the match: Weston pressed high and would not let Borough do what they needed – to get higher up the field. For fifteen minutes the score, if not the balance of play and possession, stayed level. Borough won a Charman long throw and from it, a corner, but Weston cleared and raced away on the break – as they had sometimes done lethally in the first half – and won a corner of their own, but the shot was ballooned over.
Then three Weston goals in six minutes decided the match. Torres conceded a free-kick on the edge of the area, and Dayle Grubb’s fiercely struck free-kick was parried by Vose and, in a frantic scramble, nudged in by Gethyn Hill for 2-1. On 65 minutes Grubb wove in from the left and found the inside of the right post via Vose’s hand – 3-1. A minute later Grubb struck an almost identical goal, having ruthlessly exploited an error on the Borough right side and squeezing his shot inside the post: 4-1.
Referee Josh Smith was having an erratic and unpredictable game – it did not change the result ,but he did Borough no favours, and he gave one or two ludicrous decisions, including a yellow card for Ian Simpemba for what looked like a foul by his opponent Gethyn Hill, and a late yellow for Jamie Taylor, the least thuggish striker in football, for a perfect sliding interception which took the ball.
On 74 minutes that man Grubb raced in from the left and slid a shot across the keeper which Hill, onside by a whisker, finished off at the back post. Five goals, and Dayle Grubb - who always scores against the Sports - had had a hand in all of them.
Borough did just about steady the ship for the final minutes and actually had more of the ball, but on 88 mins when a Torres-Hendon-Harris move was finished with a literally perfect header, Luke Purnell pulled off an amazing save to keep it out.
Football is merciless sometimes.