NAT PINNEY fired Eastbourne Borough into the first round proper of the FA Cup with a a sensational 90th minute winning goal to complete a superb giant-killing act against an Aldershot side reduced to 10 men in the 25th minute.
The National League promotion-chasers, who twice hit the woodwork, lost Jim Kellermann following a reckless challenge on Brian Dutton.
Even against 10 men, Borough still found it a real struggle, but a spectacular strike from man-of-the-match Jamie Taylor broke the deadlock against his former club in the 52nd minute to pave the way for eventual victory and a £12,500 pay-out to add to the £12,000 already earned from the FA.
The goal was cancelled out by 16-year-old sub Idris Kanu in the 69th minute and Tommy Widdrington’s men survived some worrying moments before Pinney saw Borough into the first round proper for the first time in eight years and the fourth time in their history.
It was also the first time, under the name of Eastbourne Borough, that the club has eliminated a team from a higher league.
Boss Widdrington said afterwards, “A good run in the FA Cup was one of our aims at the start of the season. It is a great feeling of satisfaction not for myself but for the group of players who stuck to a real in-depth game plan.
“Our plan for the first half was not to play a lot of football but to stay in the game. At the end of the day, from myself to the kitman, we are thrilled and delighted to be in the hat for the next round.
“To every one of my players I thank them for their efforts.”
Borough started with five men across the back and predictably saw little of the ball in the early stages. But they did have the first shot on target, Gavin McCallum’s stinging drive bringing home keeper Mark Smith to his knees.
At the other end, Lewis Carey did well to deny Nick Arnold after the defender’s fine run into the box.
But suddenly Borough were to receive the most unexpected of bonuses. Home fans howled in horror as Kellermann’s two-footed tackle on Dutton was deemed sufficient to send the disbelieving home defender for an early bath. Was the ref right? My view eased more towards a dark yellow than a bright red. It was one of those decisions that some refs would give; others wouldn’t.
Momentarily the Shots were in shock and Ian Simpemba narrowly failed to give the visitors a first half lead as he attempted to make contact with a bobbing ball inside the six-yard box following a corner.
Even with 10 men The Shots continued to enjoy plenty of possession and Borough hearts missed a beat as Bernard Mensah’s rasping free-kick cannoned off the post and rebounded to safety as half-time approached.
With a man advantage for the second half, Widdrington switched to a more attacking formation with Pinney replacing Ryan Worrall – and what a master-stroke that was to prove.
Pinney might have missed an early sitter but the old saying that you cannot keep a good man down was to prove spot on at a much later stage …
Had Pinney made the most of a heaven-sent chance just four yards out it would have made the score 2-0 to Borough for, just minutes earlier, Taylor’s classic 25-yarder that had screamed into the roof of the net had stunned the four-figure home following.
It was now the turn of Shots manager Gary Waddock to make a profitable substitution and his decision to bring on young Kanu was to reap an almost immediate reward as the teenage seized on Mensah’s cross from the left to fire past Carey for the equaliser.
The goal lifted the Shots. Charlie Walker’s thunderous effort smashed against the cross and Mensah missed a great chance when he cut into the box but failed to get enough power into his shot to beat Carey who, minutes later, was to make yet another fine save.
Despairing challenges produced yellow cards for Ian Simpemba and Craig Stone as Borough fought for their lives.
But with all thoughts turning towards a Priory Lane replay Pinney dispossessed Callum Reynolds at the back, strode majestically towards goal and from an acute angle on the right, curled the ball perfectly into the far corner of the net.
It was a goal that sent Borough’s 70 plus travelling supporters into ecstacy as Pinney ran towards them in joyful celebration.
The Shots kept plugging away and the final act of this absorbing drama came in stoppage time when Bellamy’s header looped agonisingly over the bar from Mensah’s free-kick.
A man advantage there may have been but there is no doubt that this was one of the great giant-killing performances of the day.
Let us just take time to digest the result; Aldershot 1, Eastbourne Borough 2. The Shots, fifth in the National League, battling for promotion. Borough, 13th in the league below with just one away win this season.
That, simply, is the magic of the FA Cup.
Aldershot: M. Smith, Arnold, Straker, Bellamy, Saville, Fenelon (Kanu 63), McClure, Mensah, Allen (Wakefield 29), Kellermann, Reynolds. Unused subs: Cole, Alexander.
Eastbourne: Carey, Hare, O’Reilly, Hughes (A. Smith 86), Simpemba, Dutton, Stone, Worrall (Pinney 46), Khinda-John, Taylor, McCallum. Unused subs: Baptista, Street, Tate, Ayzaia, Horlock.
Referee: Savvas Yianni.
MoM: Jamie Taylor – a real livewire against his old club and the scorer of a magnificent opening goal.