What’s the magic word? Consistency. Jamie Howell takes his Eastbourne Borough team into a frantic Christmas fortnight, wondering what surprises lie in store.
The Sports welcome St Albans City to Priory Lane on Saturday – the first of four holiday fixtures in a tough ten days which could see them climbing into the play-off places, or floundering in the bottom half of the National South table.
Ahead of this weekend, they lie in fifteenth place, but only four points off the play-offs. The visiting Saints are just one place above Borough with an identical points tally. “St Albans are very similar to us. They play decent football but they can’t get a consistent run together. I think to some extent it reflects the nature of National South this season, with everyone beating everyone – but in the end it’s how we play and not how the opposition play.”
Jamie was furious – and he said so publicly – after watching his team implode to a 4-0 defeat last Saturday against Dorchester. “I honestly hadn’t seen that coming, and it was hard to explain. The conditions were appalling of course, but for both teams. We’ve had two weird Saturdays, with the Billericay dramatics and then the Dorchester defeat, but previous to that, we had won three away games on the spin.
“The same players who, frankly, let us down last week can put it right this week. It isn’t about major surgery, it is simply cutting out basic glaring errors, and turning good chances into goals. Dorchester did that on Saturday, while we were creating openings but not converting.”
St Albans manager, the experienced ex-Arsenal midfielder Ian Allinson, must be similarly scratching his head: his team have not won in their last five games. “I like and respect Ian and his teams, but he will confirm that there is nothing to choose in the middle of the table. Billericay are currently second, but on a different day we would have beaten them.”
Howell has no injury issues, and he has extended the loan of Reading forwards Joel Rollinson and Adam Liddle for a further month. “Joel and Adam are not the finished article – at their age and stage, you wouldn’t expect them to be – but they give us energy and movement and we look likelier going forward when they play.” He will need all his resources over a crazy holiday period which sees the Sports play Dulwich Hamlet twice, as well as a trip to Woking.
The Boxing Day fixture at Dulwich is all-ticket, with the Hamlet’s triumphant return to Champion Hill after long legal tussles over ownership of their ground. Borough supporters can still grab a ticket via the club office at Priory Lane.