Eastbourne Borough saw their five-match unbeaten run dissolve on Saturday, going down 2-0 in a forgettable National South encounter at Maidenhead United.
The Sports have spent a lot of time on the road recently, and it is not always easy to produce your best after hours on a coach, or meeting deadlines for motorway pick-ups, and then adjusting to less familiar grounds and conditions.
The previous Tuesday has seen a stunning victory at promotion chasers Margate, but Saturday possibly caught Borough on the rebound.
Goals at the very end of each half, in an otherwise undistinguished game, were enough to secure the points for Maidenhead United on their infamous slope and tricky, uneven playing surface. Between the goals, chances were relatively few, but Eastbourne never achieved the quick flowing football which has hallmarked their recent performances.
Boss Tommy Widdrington was disappointed but philosophical. “We did look a little bit tired, but the game was far from a classic. The difficult pitch was possibly more suited to Maidenhead’s percentage game than to our own playing style and passing game.
“But they deserved to win and I have no complaints. In the bigger picture, we are making very good progress, and I will certainly be looking for a response against Bognor on Wednesday.”
Widdrington rested Craig Stone and brought back Kiran Khinda-John, while Jamie Taylor – now confirmed as a Borough player for the season – replaced Jack Evans. Young loanees Jake Sheppard from Reading and Callum Buckley (AFC Bournemouth), who have both caught the eye, retained their places.
Most of the first-half chances fell to the home side, but Lewis Carey and his defence stood firm until two minutes before half-time, when a smart attacking move set up Harry Pritchard for a top-corner thunderbolt from just inside the penalty area.
With Nathan Collier on in midfield for Bouwe Bosma, the Sports looked brighter after the break, and Ian Simpemba saw a fine shot well blocked by home defender Alan Massey on 56 minutes. Shortly afterwards Sheppard’s drive from distance drew an excellent save from keeper Ross Pentney as Eastbourne sought an equaliser.
Carey saved well from Dave Tarpey twice, and then again from Ben Wright, to keep the game alive, and the Darren Lok, on as a late substitute, looked sure to equalise before Massey’s superb late interception.
And with all still to play for as the match entered stoppage time, Sam Barratt cut in from a tight angle, eluding a couple of flailing challenges, to squeeze a 94th minute second goal past Carey. It was not a game that will live long in the memory, and Widdrington’s men will be eager to move on.
Eastbourne Borough: Carey, Sheppard, Beale, Khinda-John, Simpemba (Capt), Buckley, Haysman (Lok 85), Bosma (Collier 45), Pinney, Taylor, Romain (Evans 75).
Subs not used: Worrall, Hamilton.
Referee: Anthony Coggins Att: 424