Ten years after celebrating a 4-2 victory over Torquay United, Eastbourne Borough were left lamenting a reverse scoreline as the visitors handed out a second-half lesson in clinical finishing at Priory Lane on Saturday.
A best-of-the-season crowd of 929 turned up on Non-League Day and they were treated to a pulsating game that was in doubt until injury-time when Torquay finally sealed the points with a fourth goal.
When the outstanding Dean Cox levelled the scores in the 77th minute, most people’s money would have been on a Borough win, the Sports having matched their opponents in all aspects of the game.
The hosts, in fact, had the better of the first half and would certainly have had more than a single-goal interval advantage had they taken two gilt-edged opportunities in the space of a couple of minutes.
First Alfie Rutherford had two shots in a double attempt brilliantly blocked by keeper Shaun MacDonald before Kane Wills lobbed over from inside the area.
Borough took a deserved lead in the 36th minute when Alfie Rutherford beautifully controlled a long ball from Ryan Hall, and cut inside his marker before rounding keeper Shaun MacDonald and tapping into the net.
Torquay should have levelled three minutes later when Saikou Janneh’s short pass left Jake Andrews with only keeper Mark Smith to beat but the striker’s first touch was too heavy and Borough escaped with a goal kick.
Borough started the second half with a bang, Rutherford cutting in from the right but firing just too high.
But it was the Gulls who were suddenly displaying more urgency and looking in no mood to return to the West Country empty-handed.
The danger signs were there for all to see when Harry Ransom committed a foul a yard outside the area only to take the full force of Andrews’’ free-kick in the head.
But Andrews did find the net in the 54th minute, equalising with a 20-yard drive that fizzed into the top corner.
The Gulls took the lead three minutes later, Jamie Reid slotting home after Smith could only parry Opanin Edwards’ first effort.
The match was developing into a spectacular struggle, a real credit to non-league football on its big day.
Borough were back on level terms in the 77th minute following superb work from Sergio Torres, who had been surprisingly left on the bench. Torres gained possession on the right and made good progress before crossing for Cox to fire into the top corner of the net.
But Torquay would not lie down and in a scenario all too familiar for home fans, Borough suffered another late collapse.
Reid blasted home from the penalty spot in the 83rd minute after Ryan Hall was judged to have failed Reid in the area.
And just to rub salt into Borough’s wounds, Reid was on target in stoppage time for number four to complete a fine hat-trick and produce a scoreline that flattered Torquay. It was a defeat that saw Borough drop well below halfway in the table on a day they just wished they could have sent for Ashley Barnes.
Borough: Smith, Adebayo-Rowling, Gardiner, Ransom, Campbell, Cox, West (Torres 60), Wills, Hall, Walker (Odubade 72), Rutherford. Subs not used: Briggs, Simpemba.
Torquay: MacDonald, Davis, Sendles-White (Essuman 12), Hall, Koue Niate, Janneh (Keating 61), Edwards, Cameron, Andrews, Reid, Kalala (Williams 77). Unused sub: Burton. Ref: Gary Parsons.
MoM: Dean Cox