FA Trophy: Eastbourne Borough forced to replay at Dartford after last gasp leveller

Dean Cox opened the scoring against Dartford
Dean Cox opened the scoring against Dartford

Eastbourne Borough 1, Dartford 1

Eastbourne Borough conceded a heart-breaking late goal just as they were looking set to move into the fourth qualifying round of the FA Trophy at the expense of in-form Dartford.

Clinging on to their solitary-goal lead given them by a superb Dean Cox finish in the 56th minute, Borough were finally caught napping in the 86th minute by the pace of Kudus Oyenuga who raced clear of the home defence before slotting past the advancing Mark Smith to take the two teams back to Princes Park for a replay.

It was hard on the Sports who had fought desperately to hang on to their slender advantage, but at the end of the day, a draw was a fair result. The Darts squandered several early chances and three times were denied only by the excellence of keeper Smith.

Sadly Saturday’s match at Priory Lane was watched by just 340 spectators with the Dartford contingent making themselves heard in no uncertain manner.

The visitors should have gone ahead as early as the fourth minute when, following good work on the left by impressive defender Taylor Fisher, Ryan Hayes was left with an open goal gaping in front of him.

But he wanted far too much time as Boro defenders raced back and the ball was finally diverted for a corner.

Two minutes later a free kick just outside the area presented more problems for The Sports with Ryan Hall diverting Kudus Oyenuga’s effort for another flag kick.

Only the brilliance of Smith kept Boro in the game as the keeper performed wonders to tip Oyenuga’s glancing header over the bar in the 28th minute and soon after the same player was again denied by Smith diving to his left to save the striker’s low drive.

At the other end, Hall’s deflected free-kick was dealt with by former Borough keeper Bailey Vose.

Borough had much more of the game in the second half due in no small measure to the contributions of two Reading loanees Adam Liddle and Jowel Rollinson.

Borough went ahead in the 53rd minute when Liddle broke free on the left and found Dean Cox whose low drive sped into the corner of the net.

The Darts were far from finished and Smith pulled off his third top-drawer save to deny sub Jamie Philpot.

But the hosts generally were defending well and looked well capable of holding onto their lead.

That was until the 86th minute when home hearts sunk as the pacey Oyenuga raced clear of the defence to slot past the advancing Smith.finale as Jamie Howell’s men went all out to restore the advantage.

A cross-cum-shot from Kane Wills bounced off the Dartford bar before a stoppage-time Wills header hit the back of the net- only for the offside flag to go up.

So it was back to Dartford for the replay and all the indications of a tough task ahead.

Borough: Smith: Adebayo-Rowling, Campbell, Wills, Ransom, Gardiner, Cox (West 75), Torres, Liddle (Walker 69), Hall, Rollinson. Unused subs: Odubade, Briggs, Blackmore.

Referee: Christopher O’Donnell.

Att: 340.

MoM: Mark Smith: three top-drawer saves at crucial moments of the game.