Eastbourne Borough’s season is finally off the mark.
On an eventful afternoon in North London, Nat Pinney’s late strike secured the three points against ten-man Wealdstone.
With four minutes of stoppage time indicated, the clock was reading 93 minutes and 55 seconds, and Borough had besieged the home goal without a breakthrough, until the big striker’s low shot broke the stalemate and the tension.
Perhaps mindful of the third testing game in eight days, Tommy Widdrington rotated his troops. Kane Haysman and Jack Evans came into midfield – Evans particularly turning in a terrific display of running, tackling and passing – and an eager, constantly foraging Elliott Romain replaced the injured Darren Lok up front.
Now, red tape affects all of our lives now and again, but it was white and black tape that delayed the start of this game by a full six minutes. Evidently the league regulations demand that any tape around players’ ankles must be of the same colour as the socks. And with Borough in their yellow away strip, three players were frantically forced to strip off the offending tape and put on fresh socks to satisfy the officials – who had not even noticed this gravest of infringements until the teams were within seconds of the kick-off.
It was the sort of incident that does officialdom no favours. Never mind the sweet passing routines, boys, and forget the shooting drills. Rules are rules. Perhaps Tommy could set the lads a bit of homework before the next game, and test them on the small print in training…
Referee Elliott Kaye was to enjoy quite an afternoon, in fact. He was by no means the poorest of officials, but his style was pretty rigorous, and it was arguably the home side who came off worst, incurring three yellow cards and – crucially – a 36th minute red for Wealdstone keeper Jonathan North.
But back to the (delayed) start. A fairly even opening half hour had seen some good incisive moves by Borough, especially down the right wing where Gavin McCallum was again working hard to add an end product to his superb ball skills, and Romain was proving a real handful for the centre backs.
Wealdstone, playing down the considerable slope, were too wayward with their passing to worry the Sports defence unduly, although their long throw routines needed watching. Lewis Carey did produce one excellent smothering stop from Shaun Lucien after a lovely pass from Matt Ball.
But it was to be playmaker Ball’s last outfield action. On 36 minutes Jonathan North’s fortunes went south. Romain leapt on to a defensive error and lobbed the advancing keeper, who both clattered the striker and handled the ball outside his area, to prevent a clear scoring chance and to give Mr Kaye a choice of reasons to produce the red card. Just one was sufficient to despatch North, and to condemn Ball to an ordeal by makeshift-goalkeeper.
In fairness, the stand-in did rather well. With a shield-wall of bodies in front of him, he coped with most Borough attacks, and expertly tipped one Evans free-kick around the post.
Of course eleven men should always beat ten. But when all of those ten players are entrenched in front of their own goal, square-jawed and ready to give blood for the cause, it is often harder to break them down than in a normal, more open game that ebbs and flows.
Widdrington threw on extra attackers in Nat Pinney and Miguel Baptista – as well as a tidy half-hour for new young recruit Isaac Nehemie at left-back – but the Wealdstone goal was leading a charmed life. Then, with seconds remaining, Evans picked out Pinney with a perfect long pass, and the striker shimmied in from the left and struck an immaculate low shot inside the far post. Phew.
Wealdstone: North, Bevans, Watts, Parker, Hamblin, Corcoran, Wright (Godfrey 67), Ball, Hutchinson (Calcutt 78), Davies, Lucien (Hudson-Odoi 75).
Borough: Carey; Stone, Simpemba, Khinda-John, Beale (Nehemie 60); Collier, Worrall (Pinney 65); McCallum, Evans, Romain, Haysman (Baptista 80). Unused subs: Watts, Bosma.
Referee: Elliott Kaye
MoM: Jack Evans – a huge midfield influence
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