A chiller of a night, but a thriller of a game. Eastbourne Borough shared the points 2-2 with Hampton and Richmond on Tuesday at Priory Lane.
The draw seemed poor reward for Borough, who might have put the result beyond Hampton’s reach in a dominant first half-hour. But the Beavers fought back with great spirit, and deserved a share of the spoils.
Within three minutes, the Sports announced their intentions, with a crisp move down the left and a Sergio Torres (right) shot which keeper Tom Lovelock saved. A minute later they were ahead with a replica move. Lloyd Dawes clipped the ball in from wide, for Torres to chest down skilfully, spin athletically and finish decisively.
Hampton reeled under repeated home attacks. Dawes raced in from the right but his effort was cleared, and then Charlie Walker only found the side netting after Torres had set him clear with an inspired diagonal pass.
Lovelock slipped as he struck a goal-kick and Dawes pounced, but some last-ditch defending crowded out the Borough striker just in time.
On 18 minutes their experienced front-man Chris Dickson made the wrong sort of impression. Marshalled tightly by Harry Ransom and chasing a ball down the left, Dickson – who has played in the Premier League – appeared to fling an arm into the face of Ransom, who crumpled to the ground. Referee Scott Jackson may have been unsighted but his assistant should have had a clear view – but Dickson escaped any sanction at all.
Back swung the balance to the Mick Green End, where Torres and Ryan Hall sliced open the Hampton defence but Walker’s finish was too high. Just past the half-hour Walker’s darting run drew a clumsy trip and a nailed-on penalty.
Dean Cox despatched the spot kick for 2-0 – but any ideas of a rout were punctured within less than a minute. Hampton attacked down the left, switched the ball smoothly across the front of the Eastbourne area, and found the advancing Tyrell Miller-Rodney. Before Borough could close him down, the full-back had released a magnificent strike which scorched into the top far corner.
2-1 then, and as the action moved up from brisk to frenetic, Walker raced on to a charged-down clearance but, with Hampton in panic, he planted his shot wide of the left post. Then Cox, who surely has the quickest football brain in National South, sweetly played in Wills for a lung-bursting run and a clean shot that Lovelock held.
3-1? Even 4-1? It might have been, but it wasn’t. Instead, Hampton earned their first corner, initially defended but recycled with a long cross to the back post, where the towering figure of Dickson rose to head home an equaliser.
The second half opened with visitors on the front foot, and Zak Joseph should have put them ahead on 49 minutes, somehow blasting his shot into orbit from literally five yards, after Dickson had drawn a superb parrying save from Mark Smith.
The big Borough keeper was again on top form minutes later, saving at the left post from Dan Uchechi, as his teammates weathered a squall, if not quite a storm, of Hampton attacks.
Yemi Odubade – on for Dawes – brought fresh energy and Hampton were suddenly struggling again. Jamie Howell introduced Academy midfielder Andrew Briggs, and the youngster seized his chance with an outstanding cameo. Indeed, on 82 minutes he conjured the opening which so nearly won the match, playing in Yemi for a stunning strike that only left Mambo stunned – the Hampton defender somehow got his head in the way to knock the ball right off the goal-line.
Borough: Smith; Adebayo-Rowling, Gardiner, Ransom, Campbell; Cox, Torres, Wills, Hall (West 73); Walker (Briggs 77), Dawes (Odubade 69). Unused subs: Pollard, Blackmore. Referee: Scott Jackson Att: 438
Borough MoM: Kane Wills