By Ken McEwan
After a sensational start, it all went horribly wrong for Eastbourne Borough as they saw a 2-0 lead wiped out by relegated Braintree who put seven goals past The Sports in the FA Cup last season.
The smile on new boss Jamie Howell’s face could not have been bigger as Yemi Odubade celebrated his return to Priory Lane with an opening goal in the 19th minute followed by a Nat Pinney strike two minutes later.
But the dismissal of Kiran Khinda-John, following two yellow cards early in the second half, had a massive impact on the game, although Borough’s 10 men battled bravely and were pushing for an equaliser when the final whistle went.
An awful back pass from Scott Shulton allowed Odubade to run through and fire Borough into an early lead.
When Pinney managed to hook the ball over challenging keeper Nathan McDonald two minutes later, few among the 598 spectators could have been visualising anything but a home win. Braintree protests for a foul on the keeper were waved aside by referee David Spain.
But Shulton made up for his earlier error with a spectacular 29th minute strike after a superb run past two defenders and Braintree were suddenly back in the game. Only a magnificent save by debutant keeper Bailey Vose kept the lead intact at the interval.
However the Borough dreams of the first half rapidly turned into a nightmare in the second as Kieran-John was sent for a early bath in the 47th minute followed by a chip over the head of Vose by Phil Roberts for a Braintree leveller two minutes later.
With Borough down to 10 men Billy Crook grabbed a 52nd minute winner turning the ball home following a cross from the right.
Borough kept battling but paid the penalty for poor deliveries from set pieces.
There were, though, plenty of positives to take for a Borough team whose starting line-up included just four survivors from last season.
In what was a thoroughly entertaining game, the early attacking play which produced that two-goal lead was hugely impressive.
But red cards are something they can ill afford and the loss of a key defender proved, in the end, just too much of a handicap.
Borough: Vose, Hendon, Redwood, Khinda-John, Simpemba, Drage, Torres, Henderson, McCallum, Odubade, Pinney