‘We simply were not good enough.’
That was the painful assessment of Eastbourne Borough’s surprise exit from the FA Cup on Saturday.
Boss Garry Wilson looked shell-shocked as he tried to find reasons for his side’s woeful display against struggling Ryman League Premier outfit East Thurrock at Priory Lane on Saturday.
In truth, Thurrock were not a great side but, on Saturday, Boro’ were even worse. The visitors deserved their victory and line up for the first round proper on November 12 for the first time in their history.
Boro’ players on the other hand will look back with regret.
Had they played to just 50 per cent of their potential surely they would have eased past their limited Essex opponents, the club would be £12.5k richer and they could be lining up against a league club.
So what went wrong?
“We had chances in the first half and again we did not take them,” Wilson said.
“Their ‘keeper made some good saves, we hit the bar and the longer we went without scoring the more the pressure went up.
“It’s a massive blow for everybody at the club. The players, the management and the fans. We are all disappointed because we expected better.
“No disrespect to Thurrock they were there for the taking but we didn’t do it.”
Many fans were complaining after the match that Boro’s season is fizzling out before it has really started.
Boro’ have shown worrying inconsistency in the league and supporters were hoping the FA Cup could offer a welcome distraction and deliver some cheer following their relegation from the Blue Square Premier last season.
Wilson added, “We will take a couple of days off come back and try to regroup as a team.”
Crucially striker Gary Hart failed to recover from a knee injury in time for the match and the team remained unchanged from their midweek home defeat and Tonbridge Angels.
The best move of the first period came from Borough. Simon Johnson picked out Eddie Hutchinson with a superb crossfield pass.
Hutchinson found Ben Watson’s run but the striker delayed getting his shot away and the ‘keeper smothered his effort. Carl Rook was in the thick of the action. First he forced a good stop from Richard Wray after trickery in the box from Johnson.
The visitors were lucky to survive a penalty appeal when Rook’s effort in the box appeared to be blocked by Ben Wood’s hand. The unlucky striker then saw his header from Matt Crabb’s cross crash back off the post.
After the break Sam Cole’s long range effort was well saved by Wray before the impressive keeper, who has not missed a game for the visitors for the three years, picked himself up and produced a fine reflex save to deny Watson’s follow-up effort.
The game sprang to life but unfortunately for Boro’ it was all good work from Thurrock. Kris Newby dragged an effort wide for the visitors when well-placed before they opened the scoring on 58 minutes. Tom Stephen delivered an inviting cross from the left and Sam Higgins planted his near post header beyond Banks.
Boro’ had another penalty appeal turned away when Watson was bundled over in the box on the hour before Higgins had another chance to extend the lead but missed the target from 12 yards.
Ross Treleaven and Gary Charman came on to shake things up but the visitors held firm and got the second when veteran defender Darren Baker clipped Kye Ruel in the box and Newby fired home emphatically from the spot.
Gary Elphick, so often Boro’s saviour in the past, thumped in a header from Johnson’s freekick with nine remaining but Wilson’s men never created another chance of note and East Thurrock advanced to the first round proper for the first time in their history.
Borough: Banks 6, Baker 5 , Elphick 6, Rowe 5, Cole 5, Brinkhurst 6 (Treleaven 65), Hutchinson 5, Johnson 6, Crabb 5 (Charman 65), Watson 5, Rook 5 (Smart 59). Subs not used: Camara, Masters. Booked: Cole, Johnson
East Thurrock: Wray, Sammons, Stephen, Wood, Peddie, Gilbey, Newby (Elbi 87), Ruel, Higgins, Cohen, Collins.
Referee: P Harris 6