Latest from the Lane: Eastbourne Borough fans’ patience has been tested but progress is being made

Eastbourne Borough manager Jamie Howell
Eastbourne Borough manager Jamie Howell

WHO NEEDS ENEMIES? Now then, Jamie has his critics. So, before him, did Tommy Widdrington and Garry Wilson. No problem with that, for the fans are the paying customers, but thankfully it seldom gets too vitriolic at the Lane.

If you follow the Sports – or indeed any of our other local clubs – you learn to cheer the successes and sigh with the disappointments, and hope that they at least level out. Long-suffering but loyal.

The last few weeks have tested the patience a bit, and the FA Cup exit to Slough Town was hard to take, and yet attendance figures are actually up this season and fans can spot the progress.

Compare that with some other clubs at Borough’s level. When Woking, fancied for the title, lost at home last week, the supporters’ forum was seething with discontent: “Comically bad – outpaced, outfought, outthought...” - “Manoeuvrability of battleships...” - “We look like over-70s walking football...” - Oh, and one other remark truly designed to win friends: “We need to get out of this pub league...”

And as for Chelmsford City’s message board, on Tuesday night’s defeat at Concord? “Spineless, embarrassing. You had to be there to appreciate how awful it was...” -

“Defence all at sea, midfield slow and ineffective, forwards anonymous...” -

“Absolute shambles, children’s party time. Are our players colour-blind?” - “Shocking, pathetic, clueless, worst performance ever...” Don’t sit on the fence, chaps.

How different was the Lane last Saturday – where Jamie, in the busy hour before kick-off, paused to give a group of supporters sitting in the main stand nearly ten minutes of his time, in serious but friendly discussion of team and tactics. No wonder the fans are on board with him.

HEAD TO HEAD: Eastbourne United visit the Lane next Tuesday (6th) in the Sussex Senior Cup. The home side start as favourites, naturally, but Jamie Howell takes the competition seriously. With squad players likely to get some pitch time, and local honour at stake, Ryan Cooper’s newly reinforced side will be up for this one – and it should be a good night. Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, Hailsham Town entertain Chichester City and Seaford Town travel in hope to Bognor. And after that 3-0 win at Whitehawk on Tuesday, Town – the first club through to the Third Round – can afford to be rather pleased!

FAMOUS FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES: What a pleasure to see Andrew Briggs for that last quarter-hour against Hampton. Not a meaningless token substitution but a chance for 18-year-old Andrew to change the game – and he very nearly did. Briggsy has served long hours on the bench and chalked up a lot of miles on away trips. Like Harry Ransom a year or so ahead of him, he will surely get further chances, little by little, to prove he can handle National South football.

Well done, too, to Borough’s Under-15 keeper Conor Manderson, called up once again to represent Northern Ireland at Under-16 level. Another one for the future! Meanwhile busy goalkeeping coach Dean Lightwood is running workshops for the Walking Footballers. Dean, always good value for a quote for this column, sums up his senior charges: “Great attitude and application. Only had to help them up a few times from their low diving drills….”

UNSUBTLE SUTTON: Former England striker, turned pundit, Chris Sutton was not wrong in slating the state of the Wembley pitch on Monday night. Damage from the previous day’s American Football game was evident, not quite the fiasco of the Horse of the Year Show – remember that? - but poor event management. But marksman Sutton was wide of the mark with his comment that it was like a non-League surface. Our friends at Bognor, whose pitch is perfect enough for a World Marbles Tournament, seized on the remark with a tweet “Chris, we’d love to welcome you as guest to Nyewood Lane with our carpet of a pitch!” He missed a decent game, too, Rocks winning their FA Trophy replay 4-3 on penalties….