It was four wins in four – all with clean sheets – and three spot kicks in three for Ryan Worrall, as Eastbourne Borough kept up their late-season charge up the table on Saturday.
Just ten minutes in, Darren Lok’s lightning break on to a Simon Johnson pass caught visitors Sutton United flat-footed, and keeper Aaron Howe brought down Lok for a stonewall penalty. Worrall, lethal as ever from twelve yards, coolly despatched the kick that ultimately separated the two teams.
In dreadful Priory Lane weather that would have challenged a crew of North Sea trawlermen, Borough overcame wind, rain and opposition to keep their impressive unbeaten run afloat.
Ironically, although the Priory Lane surface itself held up well, this might have been the final encounter on grass between the two clubs, since both have announced firm plans to install 3G in the near future.
Manager Tommy Widdrington made just one change to what has become his his normal line-up. Jack Evans, not quite recovered from a facial injury last week, was replaced by Kane Haysman: one former Sutton player for another.
Widdrington said, “We played really well in incredibly difficult conditions. I am delighted with yet another clean sheet, which was a whole-team achievement, including players like Worrall, Lok and McCallum whose natural game is usually higher up the pitch.
“After that little dressing room talk (following the Farnborough defeat) we have gained a new discipline and commitment that says – it’s every player’s responsibility not to concede a goal. The dressing room mood at the moment is unbelievable.”
A rather glum Paul Doswell, Sutton’s boss, was not inclined to look beyond the awful weather for excuses. “I looked out on the driving rain at 1.30 and thought it had 0-0 written all over it, but then my keeper made one error and we never got back in it. And frankly a 3G pitch would not have made much difference in that gale.”
Doswell was not far wrong, but he must have been frustrated that his side made such poor use of the first-half conditions. With the wind relentlessly at their backs, they persistently played too long, and Lewis Carey seemed to spend much of the half taking goal-kicks.
Borough looked composed and well organised around Ian Simpemba – a tower of strength throughout.
Sutton were restricted to two first-half chances. A Dan Fitchett shot on the angle was excellently saved by Carey, and then the same player found himself suddenly onside in one of those frozen-in-time moments when no flag was raised, but with only Carey to beat he delayed too long, and the home defence scrambled back.
After the break, the Sports played with assured control, and – as with other games in the recent winning run – the single-goal lead never really felt fragile. Sutton huffed and puffed, but were still a blunt instrument up front, and even the introduction of three hugely experienced and gifted substitutes in Scannell, Dundas and Gomes made little difference.
Indeed it was Borough who came closest to another goal. In a spectacular moment – subsequently replayed in a score of clubhouse post-match debates – Carey’s wind-assisted goal-kick skeetered all the way through to the far end, with the faintest of Gavin McCallum touches on the way, and was desperately hooked off the Sutton goal-line by Dan Wishart.
It would have been a goal bizarre enough to match the afternoon. Never mind the quality, feel the wind.
Borough: Carey; Sessignon, Simpemba, Khinda-John, Beale; Worrall (Aldred 65), Johnson, Haysman (Watts 83); McCallum, Pinney (Pacquette 75), Lok. Unused subs: Botting, Rogers. Referee: Ian Cooper Att: 571
MOM: Ian Simpemba