By Kevin Anderson
at princes park
A pale performance, and a defeat that was more complete than the 2-1 scoreline suggested, has left Garry Wilson “bemused and dissatisfied” after his side returned from Dartford still seeking their first victory in Conference South.
“I just don’t know where that performance came from,” reflected the Borough boss.
“We’ve seen in pre-season that the players are good enough, but they need the confidence to show it at this level.
“It’s not a crisis, but we need to get players back from injury and start playing the way we know we can play.”
Early signs were promising, with plenty of ball possession for Eastbourne but no real penetration. But Dartford, buoyant after a 4-0 away victory on the opening day, had an eagerness and bite which threw Borough off their stride and forced the first breakthrough on 20 minutes. A swinging left-wing cross was headed down perfectly into the path of Charlie Sheringham – son of Teddy – who finished with a flourish from six yards.
Borough’s passing looked nervous and too easily disrupted by the home side’s physical midfield, and they had to reshape when Sonny Cobbs hobbled off on 34 minutes to be replaced by Ian Pulman.
But then an attacking flurry just before the interval, with good runs and shots by Crabb and Brinkhurst, gave hope of a better second half.
Those hopes evaporated on 52 minutes. Winger Richard Graham squeezed to the by-line and floated his cross beyond the despairing Banks, where an unmarked Adam Green popped in a simple goal at the back post for 2-0.
Despite reasonable possession, Eastbourne made few real inroads against a solid home defence, and it was only set-pieces which created even half-chances.
The match had effectively petered out before Ethan Strevett notched a stoppage-time consolation, a floating header just under the bar from Crabb’s corner.
It was a game that raised questions – about the shape and style of the team, about individual players, about the standard of Conference South. On the strength of two fixtures so far, the standard of opposition has risen since Borough last played at this level.
A combative Farnborough and a fluent, exuberant Dartford have set the measure.
Manager Wilson is wise and experienced enough to take the longer view.
The squad is still welding. Players are still learning each other’s moves and runs. Youngsters like Rowe, Cole, Brinkhurst and Strevett are bursting with a potential which, as yet, we are only glimpsing.
And in due course, a fully fit squad will give extra dimensions: a canny Gary Hart, the option of a bigger target man in Carl Rook, and potentially the explosive impact of Ross Treleaven, whom Wilson describes as “not far away.”
At the final whistle, skipper Gary Elphick made a point of running across to thank the 40 or 50 travelling supporters.
Never easy when you’ve lost: it was a telling moment from a player who lives and breathes Borough.
But almost as telling, some of those fans were already heading out. They may need a bit more patience in these next weeks until Borough finally get it right.