Eastbourne Borough’s barren spell away from home continues. On Saturday the long trip to Bath City brought only a third successive defeat on the road, beaten by a single first-half goal.
The points were secured on 36 minutes by towering centre-back Rob Cundy, rising to meet a corner with a perfectly flighted header. Before and after that pivotal moment, Borough matched their West Country hosts but could not find the net.
Jamie Howell had strengthened his squad on Friday with the loan signings from Reading of centre-forward Adam Liddle and winger Joel Rollinson. But cruelly Liddle, after a couple of blistering early runs, was felled by Jack Batten’s sliding tackle. The young striker continued, limping, after treatment, but his pace had been shackled and just before half-time he gave way to substitute Charlie Walker.
It was tough on Adam, who was due to see Reading medical staff early this week and will want to be swiftly back in action. Certainly boss Howell will be hoping so, for he could well give Borough the sort of pacey, impactive attacking dimension which could turn pressure into goals. His teammate Joel Rollinson showed promise, especially in a spell after half-time when he conjured several speedy right-flank moves with right-back Tobi Odebayo-Rowling.
Apart from Liddle’s bursts, the opening phase was tame. Then, past the half-hour mark, both teams seemed to go up through the gears. City danger man Ross Stearn scuffed a shot from a right-wing cut-back as the home side, playing down the Twerton Park slope, raised the tempo. The Sports responded with a Ryan Hall free-kick and then three successive corners, all stoutly defended – but it was from a Bath corner that the deadlock was broken.
Cundy, by some inches the tallest player on the field, met a perfectly flighted flag kick from the left with an arching header into the far corner. And Borough kicked themselves: for the attacker a fine finish, but for defenders a sucker punch.
The minutes to half-time were uneventful apart from the substitution of Walker for Liddle, and then Borough had 45 minutes to reclaim the game.
They made a fair fist of it, pressing Bath back into their own half and probing for openings, but the clear sights of goal were few. Sergio Torres was tireless in midfield, and City conceded an alarming six fouls in trying to contain him. Week by week, Sergio appears to be targeted by opposition midfielders, and he deserves more protection than referees are giving him.
On 67 minutes, the Sports were as close as they would come to an equaliser. From a free-kick, Harry Ransom headed across goal and found Tom Gardiner just eight yards out. The Borough centre-back, among a tangle of legs, squeezed a low shot towards the bottom left corner of the net, but home keeper Ryan Clarke swooped to save well.
With Odubade on for Rollison, Borough stayed on the front foot, and a lovely Kane Wills pass played Dean Cox into the penalty area but his effort was blocked. Yemi headed just too high from a curling Cox centre, and Clarke plucked out two more aerial efforts.
City attacked only in breakaways, but that was all they needed. That first-half header still separated the sides, and the Sports – after reaching the start of November unbeaten on the road – faced a long road home once again, with nothing to show.
This Saturday brings Dartford to Priory Lane for an FA Trophy tie. Borough are playing rather better than those recent results suggest. They are busy, creative and spirited. Lloyd Dawes and Adam Liddle are both expected to be in contention to start - and one or both of those high-paced strikers would turn the creativity into a finished product.
Borough: Smith; Adebayo-Rowling, Gardiner, Ransom, Campbell; Rollinson (Odubade 73), Torres, Wills, Hall, Cox; Liddle (Walker 42). Unused subs: Briggs, West, Blackmore.
Referee: Mark Howes Att: 783
MoM: Ryan Hall – committed and stylish