By Kevin Anderson
Eastbourne Borough brought home a point from another lengthy road trip on Saturday, earning a 1-1 draw at Bishops Stortford after a strong second-half recovery.
The Sports have had mixed fortunes on the road this season, actually winning or drawing more than half of their away fixtures, but the motorway miles do take their toll, and Widdrington’s team will not be sorry that most of their treks are behind them for the season.
Bishops Stortford, off the M11 and under the Stansted flight path, is never an easy venue, and Borough were certainly worth the draw.
Tommy set up with three centre-backs in Ian Simpemba, Craig Stone and Buckley. Ryan Worrall continued his recent run of starts in midfield, alongside Jack Evans and Kane Haysman, and the Jamie Taylor-Nat Pinney pairing started up front.
But as so often, the course of the game dictated later changes – and they were changes which swung the match back for Borough after a sluggish first half.
Early action was unspectacular, with a regulation save by Lewis Carey keeping out Corby Moore on 15 minutes, and then a bursting break by Haysman was thwarted one-on-one by home keeper Craig King.
But a poor, bumpy playing surface was hindering Borough’s passing game, and it was Stortford who took the lead just before the half-hour, with a touch of fortune.
A deflected cross from the left fell perfectly for Moore, and with the Sports defence wrong-footed he fired past Carey from the edge of the box for 1-0.
In truth, neither side could lay much claim to supremacy in a low-quality first half, but by half-time Borough had only a Sam Beale free-kick, curled over the bar, to show for their efforts, while right on half-time Stortford almost doubled the lead with an Elliott Buchanan volley which struck the post.
The game – and the Eastbourne performance – needed a shot in the arm, and for the start of the second half Widdrington made a smart tactical switch, replacing Worrall with Gavin McCallum.
It was a move which instantly fired Borough, and within three minutes they were level. A corner on the left from Jack Evans was pushed against the bar, and the ever-alert Haysman was quickest to respond and prod the loose ball over the goal-line.
With Eastbourne looking a transformed side, the match now opened out, and Nathaniel Pinney’s header from an Evans free-kick in the 56th minute was well saved by King.
Then Haysman hit the angle of post and bar in the 64th minute and substitute McCallum, cutting in from the right, saw his shot strike King’s legs before rebounding to safety.
Only one side, surely, could now claim all three points. And with the uncrushable travelling fans now singing for England, never mind just Borough, and McCallum causing havoc, a dreary Essex afternoon had actually become quite exciting.
The final flash of drama, though, came at the other end, as a deflected long throw from Johnny Herd saw Blues’ substitute Ferrier’s far post header denied by a brilliant Carey save, clawing the ball from right on the line. Not the finest game of the season, perhaps, but not the worst result either.
Bishops Stortford: King; Vanderhyde; Herd; Abdullahi; Lee; Allen; Moore (Ferrier 68); Church; Buchanan; Willmott; Lawrence
Unused substitutes: Miller, Ekim, Milbourne and Lovelock
Borough: Carey; Sheppard; Beale; Stone; Simpemba; Buckley; Worrall (McCallum 46); Evans; Pinney; Taylor (Romain 68); Haysman.
Unused substitutes: Khinda-John, Bosma and Lok.
Borough MoM: Gavin McCallum – man of half the match, at least!