SLOWLY and painfully Eastbourne Borough appear to be slipping out of the non-league’s top tier.
Mathematically the great escape is still possible. Realistically, it would be hard to find a Borough fan willing to put money on a Priory Lane survival act in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Garry Wilson’s men have seven games to play and are a massive 10 points from safety. It’s not just a mountain that needs climbing, it is Mount Everest itself.
In short it is looking like mission impossible.
Three home games in a week offered hopes of a revival, but the end product of games against Barrow, Crawley and Kettering has been an emphatic nul points.
There was a big match-turning moment in Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Kettering, the Poppies’ first away triumph since January 3.
Borough were battling for an equaliser when George Purcell was upended by Luke O’Neill as he tricked his way in from the left. Purcell took the spot kick himself but it was superbly saved by keeper Willy Gueret.
Had Purcell buried the penalty, it would have been 1-1 with Borough spirits on a high. Agonisingly, it was rapidly 2-0 to Kettering.
Assistant boss Nick Greenwood said. “George volunteered to take the penalty, but kicked the ground before making contact with the ball. It was a shame because the way he struck his free kick against Crawley was one of the cleanest strikes you could ever wish to see. It was at a crucial part of the game but when you are down the wrong end of the table these things go against you.”
Added Garry Wilson,“The penalty was a huge turning point. We had a great start to the second half and had it gone in we would have gone on to win the game. As it was, we played 35 of the 45 second half minutes in their half, but we needed to make it count.”
Despite Borough’s perilous position, Wilson made it clear that the fight goes on. “We do not want to finish bottom of this league,” he insisted. “We want to fight and play every game with the aim of finishing as high as possible. If we win four games, we are back in the mix.”
Town took the lead in the seventh minute when skipper Brett Solkhon was left with a simple tap-in after keeper Rikki Banks could only parry Jean-Paul Marna’s low drive from the left.
After their heroic efforts against Crawley in mid-week, the Eastbourne players looked lethargic and lacking in ideas. Some of their passing infuriated the home crowd, many of whom must have been wishing they had stayed at home to watch England on the box.
The nearest the home side came to scoring was when Matt Crabb’s excellent effort was cleared off the line by O’Neill.
But there was a lot more urgency in the second half with Purcell missing that great opportunity to level as Gueret dived to save the penalty.. But the home agony was compounded as the visitors swept upfield following a Borough corner and the outstanding Marna cut the ball back for Nick McKoy to finish the job.
Four minutes later, a Neil Jenkins foul ended with Marcus Kelly curling a magnificent 20-yard free kick into the net off the inside of the post to give the Poppies a three-goal advantage.
Deep into stoppage time Jamie Taylor attoned for a bad miss moments earlier with a thunderous angled drive into the far corner of the net after Gueret had done well to keep out sub Simon Weatherstone’s fierce free-kick.
What a shame that such an excellent strike was just a mere consolation.
Borough: Banks 6, Baker 6, Austin 7, Kelly 6, Jenkins 6, Johnson 5 (Pacquette 68, 5), Hutchinson 6, Smart 6 (Weatherstone 68, 6), M. Crabb 6, Taylor 6, Purcell 5 (Brinkhurst 76, 5). Subs not used: Demetriou, Strevett.
Kettering: Gueret 8, O’Neill 7, Roper 7, Flanagan 6, Davis 6, Wilson 6, Solkhon 7 (Challinor 87), McKoy 7, Kelly 7 (Mills 80), Marna 8, Cunnington 6 (Christie 84). Subs not used: MacDonald, Noubissie.
MoM: Ben Austin – the captain remains almost flawless despite his team’s adversity.
REF: Lee Collins (Surrey) 5. ATT: 673.