Hayes and Yeading 2
Eastbourne Borough 2
By Kevin Anderson
If they are to progress in the FA Trophy, Eastbourne Borough must do battle again. In a windswept encounter with Hayes and Yeading United on Sunday, they were seconds from victory before the home side snatched a late equaliser to force a Tuesday night replay.
In a game higher on action than on quality, 2-2 was about right, but homeless Hayes – who play at Maidenhead – must now visit Priory Lane (7.45 kick-off), where Borough can seize their chance to finish the job.
The Buck’s Head ground also has a significant slope and a poor playing surface – the worse for wear after the landlords’ own FA Trophy match on Saturday. With dampness in the air, dark hostile clouds gathering, and a howling storm-force wind, this would never be a classic. Never mind the quality, feel the wind chill factor.
Tommy Widdrington kept faith with the starting eleven who had secured an impressive 3-0 victory at Chelmsford on the previous weekend. Nat Pinney and Darren Lok started up front with plenty of ammunition in reserve in the shape of Elliott Romain and Gavin McCallum.
It was not a good toss to lose, handing the Sports first use of the elements. From the very first minute, that means, you have to exploit the wind and slope and get your range-finding right. And from a corner in only the fourth minute, a match-defining moment saw Lok’s excellent near-post header brilliantly kept out by keeper Dan Lincoln.
Just two minutes later, at the opposite end, Lewis Carey pulled off a magnificent fingertip save to touch Elliott Benyon’s top-corner shot onto the post and away. This was to be no Sunday stroll.
As the match settled down, Eastbourne did enjoy the major share of ball and territory, but first-half chances were actually quite even. Ian Simpemba charged down a Mason Spence shot after the lively home side whisked through on a breakaway, before Pinney announced himself with a trademark piercing run into the box, but his left-foot shot was blocked.
You couldn’t take your eyes off it. Marvin Hamilton – outstanding all afternoon – was causing blind panic with his huge wind-assisted throws as Borough applied squeezing pressure in their search for an opening goal. But Hayes, constantly breaking with electric pace, might themselves have gone ahead when Max Worsfold’s left-flank run earned a corner which Lewis Ferrell headed over the bar.
There were individual contests all over the pitch, none keener than Kiron Khinda-John’s excellent tight-marking of bustling Hayes top-scorer Ishmael Ehui, while at the other end, first Ferrell and then Colin Mugoya were fortunate to escape yellow cards for crunching fouls on Lok and Nathan Collier respectively. Referee Adam Ricketts was treading that narrow path between flowing play and a firmer clamp-down.
With half-time now looming, the Sports still had no breakthrough. But on 39 minutes Miguel Baptista’s free-kick was blocked and fell perfectly to Jack Evans on the edge of the box, and the Borough midfielder smacked a rocket of a half-volley to give his side a vital 1-0 lead. With a literal uphill battle to come, that was the minimum that Eastbourne needed – but there was more first-half action to come. Benyon, set suddenly free when Borough lost midfield possession, fired wastefully wide of the right post, before Pinney mesmerised the home defence and chipped a little cross that beat the defence but was just too tricky for Kane Haysman to convert.
And right on half-time a bizarrely buffeting wind caught Simpemba – rather like an outfield cricketer trying to judge where a swirling catch will fall to earth – and Ehui pounced like a panther. But Marvin was across in a flash to stem his run and clear the danger.
Ehui was not to be denied, though. Just 50 seconds after the break, he wriggled himself space on the edge of the Borough area and whacked in a low shot to bring Hayes level. A long and testing second half lay ahead, but in truth the home side did not take full advantage. Their long balls were too long and they actually looked less of a threat than earlier in the game.
One Benyon header was touched over by Carey, but otherwise the action and the chances were at the top of the slope. A smashing four-man move found Haysman at the back post but his angle was too tight. Then Lok squeezed in between the centre-backs but tumbled and could not quite find Pinney with his lay-off.
Widdrington’s use of substitutes has been a notable strength this season, and by midway through the half the boss had introduced extra width with Sam Beale and – crucially – fresh impetus up front in Gavin McCallum and Elliott Romain.
The new strike pair instantly had the home defence in panic mode. Spence finally copped a yellow card for a tactical foul, and then Simpemba, up for a Haysman free-kick, was denied by what appeared to be a handball by Josh Scott. Mr Ricketts was possibly unsighted but the appeal was loud and instant, Simpemba was incensed, and young Scott wore the broadest grin in the stadium as Borough were left fuming.
With four minutes left, Romain’s pace left Jake Sheppard for dead and was clear on goal, and possibly inside the box when the defender pulled him down. Clear scoring opportunity and red card? Mr Ricketts thought not – but from the resulting free-kick Collier popped the ball in at the back post for 2-1, and Borough had their eyes on the prize.
It was not to be.
A minute into stoppage time, the Sports defence dealt only clumsily with a long throw, and Benyon struck from close range to earn his side a trip to Priory Lane this evening (Tuesday).
Hayes and Yeading: Lincoln, Sheppard, Worsfold, Ferrell, Fenlon (Scott 75), Mugoya, Spence (Kearney 87), Everitt, Ehui (Alexander-Salmon 83), Jay, Benyon.
Borough: Carey; Khinda-John, Simpemba, Hamilton; Stone, Baptista (Beale 56), Collier, Haysman, Evans; Pinney(McCallum 67) , Lok (Romain 67).
Unused subs: Wilson, Tate.
Referee: Adam Ricketts
Borough MoM: Marvin Hamilton – unflappable in the storm