By Kevin Anderson
Another close and passionate game saw Eastbourne Borough return pointless from a tough trip to Kent on Monday, losing by the odd goal in three to their promotion-chasing Maidstone United.
It was an afternoon that had all sorts. One fantastic Darren Lok strike; one Borough manager sent off; some breath-taking Lewis Carey saves; two avoidable goals conceded; and a remarkable 2,691 Boxing Day punters at the Gallagher Stadium.
But the moment of true controversy came, with Eastbourne 2-1 down, on 78 minutes.
Ten yards inside the Borough half, referee Andy Laver correctly waved advantage after a Stones foul and Sam Beale launched the ball forward for Gavin McCallum, who beat his defender and was powering in on goal with only the keeper to beat, when – several seconds after the offence – Mr Laver pulled play back to award Eastbourne the original free-kick.
The Borough players and bench were distraught. Widdrington may have been too vehement with his reaction but Mr Laver immediately sent off the Borough manager.
Not that Borough could lay the defeat entirely at Mr Laver’s door, of course. They conceded two avoidable goals and allowed a pacey Maidstone side to dictate the play in some areas. It was not an awful performance, and the match itself was action-packed and hugely entertaining, but on the day Eastbourne were a narrow second-best.
After a draining Boxing Day game against Whitehawk, Widdrington tweaked the side and included a rare start for Bouwe Bosma.
Maidstone took the lead on the 32nd minute lead Driver won possession cheaply on the halfway line and sent new signing Vas Karagiannis racing away unchecked down the right, and then cutting inside for a scorching shot under Lewis Carey and into the net, when Borough might have expected a cut-back.
Carey had kept Borough in the game with two astonishing close-range saves from Driver and Joe Healy, and right on the hour the visitors were level. Evans hit an inspired long pass to Lok, who turned both centre-backs inside out, raced into the area and hit an explosive finish past Worgan.
But just six minutes later the good work was undone. A wicked curling corner from the right found an unmarked Coyle in space at the back post, to head an emphatic goal that was to prove the difference between the sides.
Maidstone: Worgan, Driver, Mills, Coyle, Parry, Rogers, Banya (Taylor 76), Healy, Akrofi, Paxman (May 88), Karagiannis (Bodkin 72).
Subs not used: Collin, Davies.
Borough: Carey; Stone, Simpemba, Khinda-John, Beale; Evans, Bosma, Haysman (Baptista 65); McCallum (Hamilton 79), Pinney (Romain 65), Lok.
Subs not used: Worrall, Collier.
Referee: Andrew Laver
Att: 2691 (a ground record)
Borough MoM: Lewis Carey – at his brave and athletic best