Stern test for the leaders

Richard Pacquette
Richard Pacquette

Conference South pace-setters Eastbourne Borough will have their credentials tested on Saturday when they make the trip to mid-table Maidenhead.

The Sports sit proudly at the top of the table with four straight victories since their opening-day draw at Wealdstone, and the rest of the league cannot fail to notice such a high-octane start.

Meanwhile, the Surrey club, who escaped relegation only on the final day of last season, raised a few eyebrows with their early-season results – two wins and a draw from the first three games.

But since then, two defeats - including a 4-2 Bank holiday defeat at Bromley - have taken the gloss off.

After Borough’s flying start, though, every game for the time being will be a challenge, as opponents take a tilt at the new league leaders.

And Maidenhead boss Johnson Hippolyte – “Drax” as the Non-League football world knows him – is among the canniest managers on the circuit.

Working on small budgets, Hippolyte gets results through smart tactical awareness, and his Maidenhead side always relish their underdog tag.

Borough striker Richard Pacquette returns to the club where last season he notched an impressive 15 goals – two of them against Eastbourne – in a struggling side.

Pacquette and strike partner Gavin McCallum have both been among the goals for the Sports, and this does not look the sort of fixture to finish in a goalless draw.

“I’ve got friends wherever I go,” said the popular Pacquette. “I enjoyed last season and I’m looking forward to meeting the guys again – and hopefully putting a goal or two past them. The season has been great so far. I get on well with everyone at Priory Lane and the fans seem to love the way we are playing. We have so many goalscorers in our side at present that opposition teams must be putting their tin hats on!”

Manager Tommy Widdrington has one or two injury concerns, but there should be enough strength in depth to cover them. Promising defender Kiran Khinda-John remains sidelined after damaging ankle ligaments in a dreadful tackle at Concord Rangers last weekend, while centre-back partner Adam Watts may still need time to clear up his niggling hamstring.

But ex-Southampton defender Lloyd Foot has already impressed in his two outings, and experienced Academy coach Jay Lovett has not looked in the least bit out of place when called upon.

The only longer-term injury is Charlie Losasso. The gifted midfielder - who Widdrington still insists “will have the supporters leaping up out of their seats” – still has some fluid on the knee damaged in pre-season, and he remains a couple of weeks away.

“All of my squad have now had time on the pitch,” said Tommy after Monday’s heart-stopping victory over St Albans. “And I’ve told them I am delighted with the attitude of each and every one of them. For semi-professional players to turn in two top performances in 48 hours at the weekend was a credit to their attitude and their personal preparation.

“The spirit in the squad is fantastic and it’s all about the team ethic. All of them are playing for the name on the front of the shirt and not the name on the back.”