Fashionable coaching jargon these days talks of the “false number nine”, but Eastbourne Borough manager Jamie Howell could do with a real one.
“It’s ironic,” reflected Howell, “that the two spells when we had a big powerful figure at centre-forward, they did so well with us that they moved back up the pyramid!
“Alfie Rutherford scored six in four, and Havant recalled him, and now Joe Quigley has taken exactly the same route. At least I know I have Stefan Ljubicic for the season now.”
The promising Brighton and Hove Albion striker is certainly a capture for the Sports, together with AFC Bournemouth’s Corey Jordan. Both made their debut in last Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Truro.
“Truro was not a fair occasion to judge Stefan and Jordan, but they can both be important players for us in the coming weeks.”
Tomorrow, Borough, who are 14th in the National League South, welcome Oxford City to Priory Lane tomorrow (Saturday, 3pm)
Howell fielded a strong side on Tuesday night in a friendly with Langney Wanderers at the Lane, running out comfortable 6-0 winners. He would probably settle for two or three against an Oxford side who can often be hard to break down, and are always combative.
“We wanted to get the Truro trip out of our systems,” explained Howell.
“It was a bit like one of those management team-building days that nobody really enjoys, but you have pretend you are getting lots of bonding benefits out of it - when really you all wish you had stayed in the office.”
The weekend forecast predicts rain and gales lashing in off the Channel. But six months ago, almost to the day, the two clubs had opened their season with a cagey 0-0 draw – both teams coping with stifling August heat on a pitch where the half-time temperature reached an alarming 40 degrees.
Sergio Torres remains sidelined with a knee injury while Howell will hope to have young Andrew Briggs (knee) available for selection after sitting out at Truro.
Meanwhile the Sports go chasing their one remaining chance of silverware next Tuesday night (February 12) at Burgess Hill. The two sides met a fortnight night ago in their Sussex Senior Cup quarter-final tie, but the game was abandoned 23 minutes in – with Borough leading 2-0 – because of floodlight failure.
A victory over their Bostik Premier opponents would put Borough into the last four, alongside Bognor Regis Town, Hayward Heath Town, and the winners of the Eastbourne Town versus Brighton and Hove Albion tie, controversially postponed because of the Seagulls’ fixture pressure. John Lambert’s men will be eagerly awaiting the rescheduled meeting on Tuesday, February 19.