By Kevin Anderson
Eastbourne Borough host their biggest game of the season so far on Saturday, when Bognor Regis Town arrive for the all-Sussex FA Cup showdown – and boss Jamie Howell will take nothing for granted.
Howell’s new-look Borough are in good shape, with just one defeat in the last eleven games, and they have not lost at Priory Lane since the opening day. But the wonderfully random nature of the FA Cup draw has thrown Howell a curve-ball, and a tie against his former employers.
“In some ways you might prefer to be playing some anonymous team from Bedfordshire,” commented Jamie ahead of his final training session. “But that can also bring nasty surprises, whereas this one has the advantage that I know plenty about my opponents!
“I’m expecting quite a tight affair. We are in good shape but that doesn’t necessarily make us favourites. This is Cup football, with a lot at stake, and players and supporters are all up for it. There are big financial implications as well.
Howell’s old mentor Jack Pearce is back at the helm, but the newly-promoted Rocks have had quite a rocky passage. They are winless in National South since mid-August, and last weekend they surrendered a two-goal lead in stoppage time to draw 2-2 with Gloucester City. And on August Bank Holiday the Sports came away from Nyewood Lane with a 1-0 victory, thanks to Kane Wills’ late strike. Howell is unconvinced by the stats. “In fairness Bognor were a bit under-strength with injuries when we played over there, and they’ve got a few people back now. I am sure they will come to us and have a real go.”
The manager is well in credit with home supporters – but he warns against too much, too soon. “It’s true that expectations have risen a little bit, but on balance that is a good thing. I’d sooner have optimistic supporters than long faces. If the supporters expect good football and good results, it’s because that’s what they’ve been seeing in recent matches.
That’s not the same as being cocky. Football has a habit of bringing you back with a bump. We will not be complacent.”
Jamie has few injury concerns. “Yemi Odubade came off with a groin injury last week and he may not be ready for Saturday.
“Will Hendon is in full training again, and Lloyd Dawes has been carrying a little strain so we need to manage him.”
Striker Dawes, who completed his signing from Worthing in midweek, is not cup-tied and might have a part to play.
And contrary to some rumours, the club have confirmed that former Rock Gary Charman is now a full Borough player and available for selection.