By Kevin Anderson
A seamless team performance, and goals early and late in the game, secured a deserved victory for Eastbourne Borough over visitors Hayes and Yeading on Saturday.
Hayes must hate coming to the South Coast. Over the years, they have never gained so much as a draw in all their visits to Priory Lane, and their own decent little run of current form – five games unbeaten – was blown away on the icy March blasts.
Supporters glancing at the Borough team-sheet could not fail to notice the Formidable Five on the bench: strikers Pinney and Taylor, playmaker Evans, and top defenders Stone and Khinda-John. When a full squad is available, Tommy Widdrington is spoiled for choice, and his rotation policy makes good sense – especially after 120 exhausting minutes against Bognor on Wednesday night.
Ian Simpemba – who had sat out almost the whole of the midweek game – returned to bring great command and leadership to a young back line, and Gavin McCallum’s lavish skills, introduced mainly from the bench in recent games, were this time on show from the start. The fresh legs certainly gave Borough the perfect start. Just eight minutes in, after some early sparring, Sam Beale sprinted down the line to send in a low cross from the left, and Elliott Romain darted to meet it and crash a shot against the near post. As the ball rebounded, it deflected off centre-back Darren Purse and into the net; but Romain had done enough to claim the strike as his goal.
Sam Beale’s counterpart at right back, Jake Sheppard, is in similar mould – quick and eager to get forward – and throughout the afternoon he plagued the Hayes defence. With Callum Buckley turning in another mature performance at centre-back, the two young loan players added real quality, and it is no surprise that Widdrington has designs on extending their stay at Priory Lane.
In fact the single time that Sheppard was exposed, on 25 minutes, gave Hayes their only real first-half chance. Max Worsfold spotted the opening and hit a sharp low drive across Lewis Carey and off the right post.
Just past the half-hour, in the most controversial moment of the afternoon, full-back Elliott Simpson was the luckiest man at the Lane, escaping with only a yellow card when his deliberate handball prevented a perfect through ball from reaching Lok, who would have streaked through on goal. Referee Ian Fissenden took the benevolent view, but in most observers’ eyes it was a clear goal-scoring opportunity and deserved a red.
Mr Fissenden was not the poorest official to take the whistle at Priory Lane this year, although his well-intentioned use of advantage misfired several times, and left both managers frustrated. At least this time, the Sports were spared the refereeing howlers which, last month at York Road, had gifted Hayes two penalties in a pulsating but maddening 4-4 draw.
Neat approach work set up a fierce Kane Haysman drive just before half-time, but it fizzed past the right post and we arrived at the break with a game that was still pretty open at 1-0.The second half began with Romain still the busiest man on the field, with one drive just wide and another effort skilfully set up by McCallum but saved, before Tommy made a double change on the hour, bringing on Taylor and Pinney. Their experience and canny game management was to play an important part in easing the pressure that Hayes were now mounting.
Beale blocked an inswinging corner just inside the near post, but otherwise the visitors had few clear sights of goal until six minutes from time, when Lewis Carey defied belief, gravity and Elliott Benyon with a stunning save, twisting in mid-air and getting a strong left hand to push the striker’s header on to the crossbar and away.
It was the moment when Hayes lost the game. Borough were not troubled again, and in stoppage time they doubled the lead with a gorgeous piece of exhibition football. Winning the ball in the centre-circle, Jack Evans fed it forward to Pinney, who played in Taylor on the right while Evans continued his blind-side run and met Jamie’s low cross with a simple finish. Simple? Only when you get it right, and Borough are getting very little wrong at present.
Borough: Carey, Sheppard, Beale, McCallum, Simpemba, Buckley, Worrall, Collier, Lok (Pinney 58), Romain (Taylor 58), Haysman (Evans 77). Unused subs: Stone, Khinda-John.
Referee: Ian Fissenden
Borough MoM: Jake Sheppard – bringing energy and exuberance to the side.