Five goals, and another five-star performance: a rampant Eastbourne Borough convincingly despatched the challenge of visitors Wealdstone with a 5-1 victory at Priory Lane on Saturday.
Still nursing late play-off hopes, the Stones had arrived on an eleven-match unbeaten run – including a remarkable sequence of seven consecutive away wins. But they were blown aside as Borough found their shooting boots in devastating fashion.
Truthfully, there are weeks when sponsors and reporters are scratching to find a man of the match, but this time it was hard to rule anyone out. From a commanding Jordan Holmes in goal, through a dominant back four and a confident midfield to strikers Jamie Taylor and Nat Pinney.
Taylor’s irrepressible late-season burst of form is invigorating the whole team – as well as giving the manager a rather nice headache as his thoughts turn to next season’s strike options.
It was two-goal Taylor who struck the afternoon’s diamond of a goal, an inspired forty-yarder, on the half-hour. By then a smart pair of strikes by Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain had already put Borough in control, and both Jamie and Kiran Khinda-John found the net after half-time.
Only six minutes in, Hughes and Taylor set up Nat Pinney, whose electric burst took him to the byline behind the defence, and his fierce effort was only parried by keeper Jonathan North into Oxlade-Chamberlain’s path, and the youngster drilled emphatically home.
In the next few minutes the Ox saw another shot saved, a Taylor effort was deflected just wide, and then a rasping Ryan Worrall volley hit the crossbar from outside the box. Wealdstone still looked capable of levelling, and Jordan Holmes was clattered by striker Dan Fitchett as he claimed one towering centre – the keeper continuing after anxious moments of treatment.
But the Sports looked livelier and likelier. Pinney’s flick put Taylor in on goal, but North saved bravely and Baptista’s follow-up was frantically cleared by defender Brown. Then on 27 minutes Oxlade-Chamberlain doubled the score, racing through a static back line and picking his spot inside the far post.
The Stones came close when Ed Oshodi’s header from a corner was cleared off the line, but then the crowd – and goalkeeper North – were left gasping as Taylor picked the ball up in the centre circle, looked up and struck a glorious shot over the desperately back-pedalling keeper.
Wealdstone’s ebullient, sometimes abrasive fans had travelled in huge numbers and their hopes were revived just befor half-time when slack defending allowed Oshodi space to cross from the right for Fitchett to head home from inside the goal area. The Sports, stung rather than shaken, almost restored the three-goal lead with the last move of the half, a crisp exchange of passes allowing Taylor to fire inches wide of the left post.
It was perfectly balanced: if Wealdstone could strike again for 3-2, they could still turn this game, while another Borough goal for 4-1 would surely seal it. All matches have turning points, and this one came straight after half-time as, with fresh belief, the Stones surged at Borough from the off. But with strong hands and breathtaking agility, Holmes denied them twice in ten seconds, beating out point-blank shots from Dan Green and Joe White.
The North London side had still not given up, and Holmes touched a 20-yard free-kick on to the bar – but that crucial next goal fell to Borough. Ian Simpemba – on as a substitute for the injured Josh Hare – nodded on a free-kick and Taylor pounced with a cool angled finish for 4-1.
Four minutes later Gavin McCallum swung an immaculate centre from the left and Khinda-John rose to smash in a triumphant header. The only surprise now was a goalless final half-hour. Simpemba did his best to change that, with a header that cleared the bar and a shot that cleared the Mick Green Stand – but was fully forgiven for the steely strength he had brought to the back line since half-time.
Pinney did come achingly close to a sixth goal, slamming his shot against the underside of the bar from Taylor’s low cross.
Wealdstone also had a final fling, Holmes palming another Green free-kick on to the crossbar, but they were second best by a mile.
The North Londoners’ day at the seaside had begun, literally, with a stroll on the beach; but it ended with the Sports strolling to victory.
Borough: Holmes (Simpemba 46); Hare, Khinda-John, Hobson, McCallum; Baptista (Bosma 83), Hughes, Worrall, Oxlade-Chamberlain(Stone 64); Pinney, Taylor. Unused subs: Horlock, Tate.
Referee: Mark Whaley
Borough MoM: Jamie Taylor