It’s curtains for Boro in Eastleigh

Clark Masters punches the ball away from Eastleigh's Lee Peacock and Tom Jordan
Clark Masters punches the ball away from Eastleigh's Lee Peacock and Tom Jordan

Eastbourne Borough manager Tommy Widdrington was far from impressed with a no-nonsense Eastleigh side after their 2-1 defeat to the South Coast rivals.

A storming late come-back was not quite enough to save Eastbourne Borough from a disappointing defeat after conceding two goals to set-piece nightmares at the very start of each half.

Commenting on their style of play, Widdrington said, “Eastleigh are a better side when the ball is out of play.

“If they played that sort of fotball in my back garden I would draw the curtains.

“We gave them two really bad goals from set pieces which is criminal.”

The two-games-a-week treadmill is just starting to catch up with Tommy’s troops, who gave their all on a difficult pitch, but looked weary at the end. And a clutch of three games in seven days against play-off chasing opponents – starting with last night’s clash with Dartford – gives Borough no respite as they search for the final few points to secure their Conference South status.

With Matt Smart rested, Gary Charman returned to midfield, and up front Widdrington reverted to the pairing of Hart and Watson.

Flu victim Mitch Walker was replaced in goal by Clark Masters, for his first league start since a four-match suspension, and the big man responded with a competent display that included two outstanding saves, one in each half. In front of him it was hard to find fault with individual defenders, with the pairing of Ollie Rowe and Alex Lacey again looking sound, and Sam Cole often turning defence into attack on the left.

But the two goals conceded were poor. Both came from corners, just three minutes into each half – the first from former Borough skipper Gary Elphick and the second from his towering centre-back partner Tom Jordan. Remarkably, it was the first time in Widdrington’s ten-match reign that Eastbourne have conceded twice in a game.

Elphick’s opener came from a looping header that squeezed in under the bar after a right-wing corner was only partially cleared, and Masters – possibly impeded in the scrum of bodies – stretched in vain to keep it out.

In the rest of a dull first half the Borough keeper did make one spectacular save at the near post but was otherwise untroubled as the home side offered little up front. But Eastbourne, despite plenty of possession, were no more incisive than Eastleigh, and the closest to an equaliser was a clever Watson run which took him behind the home defence but finished with a narrow-angle shot into the side netting.

But hopes of a second-half come-back were dented straight after the break when Jordan’s bullet header perfectly met an inswinging corner for 2-0. Midfield playmaker Stuart Anderson worked hard to ignite a response but on a cloying pitch – bizarrely, it was heavily watered by Eastleigh before the game – the fire was still lacking.

A fabulous Masters save from a deflected Bradley Bubb shot at least kept the game alive, and with new legs up front in the shape of Ellis Remy and Charles Adameno, Borough suddenly grabbed a 68th minute lifeline. Anderson’s long throw reached Remy, whose spectacular bicycle kick fizzed into the bottom corner.

2-1, and time enough to rescue the game. In a stirring final quarter, Eastbourne produced easily their best spell of football and came achingly close to an equaliser. An Adameno cross-shot was kicked off the line, and then the lively striker beat both centre-backs and keeper but saw his goalbound shot desperately hooked away from the goalline by former Borough loanee Mitchell Nelson. The “curse of the ex” was complete.

Seconds before the final whistle Cole’s long cross found Remy, whose header missed the back post by inches. The moment summed up how close Borough had come, and how narrowly they had failed.