EASTBOURNE Borough faced a gruelling 550-mile round trip to Yorkshire last night (Tuesday) to save their FA Trophy campaign after Saturday’s fourth round clash with Guiseley finished level.
Simon Weatherstone’s wind-assisted 50-yard effort was cancelled out by Guiseley’s Joe O’Neill in the second half, leaving Garry Wilson and his part-timers with an unwanted long journey.
The reward for success was revealed on Monday - a home quarter-final tie with Trophy favourites Luton Town.
The replay took place after the Gazette went to press, but a full report will appear in Friday’s Eastbourne Herald.
Wilson praised his players for the way they dealt with dire conditions at Priory Lane on Saturday, a strong end-to-end gust and driving rain putting passing football at a premium.
The Boro’ boss said, “It was a lottery and the conditions worsened in the second half.
“We got a lot of luck with our goal as they did with theirs. Overall I thought we had the better chances - we had a few cleared off the line and if we had been sharper in the box perhaps we might have got the second goal we needed.”
With the near-gale at their backs in the first half, Borough dominated territory and possession, Guiseley’s clearances barely reaching the halfway line. Ethan Strevett fired just wide in the opening minutes before Guiseley went even closer in their sole foray forward, O’Neill’s deflected effort coming back off the post.
Jamie Taylor then should have scored when Guiseley’s debutant goalkeeper James Coates threw the ball straight to him, but the striker only found the side-netting with his shot.
The visitors, riding high in Blue Square Bet North, were forced into penalty box firefighting, blocking several shots as Borough piled on the pressure, but all their efforts were undone by Weatherstone’s freak goal.
The fierce wind had brought to mind a Borough home game with Dorchester in 2004, when Stuart Playford managed to score an own goal from 25 yards with the ball flying back over his head. This strike was just as bizarre. Weatherstone slung in a free-kick from just inside the Guiseley half which caught the wind, flew over the bodies inside the penalty area and beyond the grasp of the out-of-position Coates.
But Borough failed to make their advantage tell and when the teams turned round with just a goal in it, Guiseley sensed chances to level would come their way in the second half.
And they did, in spades. Tommy Forecast twice had to tip over crosses which threatened to creep in under the bar, the inside of the post came to Borough’s rescue, while Forecast denied Simon Ainge.
But the Lions got their reward when the on-loan Southampton ‘keeper failed to hold Warren Peyton’s relatively tame shot and O’Neill pounced on the rebound.
Guiseley striker James Walshaw was sent-off after picking up a second yellow card for an over-exuberant celebration but it was Borough who were relieved to hear the final whistle – even if it did mean a weary squad having to dig deep once more to ensure that Wembley remains a possibility.
BOROUGH (4-4-2): Forecast 7; Baker 7, Hutchinson 7, Elphick 6, Jenkins 6; Strevett 7 (sub Pacquette 81 mins), Smart 7, Weatherstone 7, M. Crabb 6 (sub Brinkhurst 76 mins); Spencer 6, Taylor 6 (sub N. Crabb 76 mins).
Subs not used: Demetriou, Banks.
GUISELEY (4-4-2): Coates; Toulson, Ellis, Ainge, Merris; Rothery (sub Stamp 69 mins), Peyton, Bushell (sub Sharry 69 mins), Needham, O’Neill, Walshaw.
MoM: Simon Weatherstone (worked hard in midfield). Att: 471.
Referee: Mr. N. Kinseley (Essex) 6.