The night Ashley Barnes lit up Priory Lane for Eastbourne Borough against Torquay United

Ashley Barnes in action for Brighton
Ashley Barnes in action for Brighton

By Ken McEwan

One of the things I often found frustrating as sports editor of the Eastbourne Gazette & Herald was the production side.

To the uninitiated, that means planning the pages electronically from a-z, ensuring that as well as the big, back-page stories, little Johnny’s goal for Polegate Grasshoppers under-nines actually got into print on the youth page - otherwise an angry mother would be on the phone on Friday morning (publication day).

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the job but my time behind a desk battling with a computer often lasted well into the night which meant that I didn’t get to as many mid-week games as I would have liked. But one midweek game I was determined not to miss was being played on a cold December evening at Priory Lane in 2008 where the then mighty Torquay United were the visitors in a Conference Premier game.

Borough had lost 2-0 at Plainmoor and were expected to struggle in the return fixture. But we had all reckoned without a certain Ashley Barnes.

Barnes, who has made his Football League debut with Plymouth, was subsequently loaned out to Oxford United, Salisbury and then Borough.

The dashing striker was superb as Gary Wilson’s men pulled off a magnificent 4-2 win. Matt Crabb netted twice with Barnes and fellow loanee Dan Smith hitting a goal apiece. It must rank among Borough’s best ever wins against a team who that season went on to be promoted to League 2 and as I walked towards my car afterwards a supporter remarked, “It doesn’t get better than this.” He was right.

But with the clubs almost inevitably destined to go in opposite directions, few anticipated another league match between the two clubs. However, the only certain thing about football is its uncertainty and here we are, a decade later on Non-League Day, battling it out for league points with Torquay once again.

Obviously, there will be no Ashley Barnes. He is currently knocking in some excellent goals with Burnley.

But if Borough can play as they did in the first half last week against Dulwich Hamlet and keep their concentration going for the entire 90 minutes, more league points could well be coming the way of Jamie Howell ’s team.