Eastbourne get FA Cup journey started - but it's not easy at Hanwell
The FA Cup journey is under way for Eastbourne Borough. On Saturday in West London they steered past tricky opponents Hanwell Town with late goals from Charlie Walker and Charley Kendall.
The magic of the FA Cup is more than just a cliché. The competition fires imaginations, and every team raises its game. An ordinary side can be inspired to extraordinary heights. This match, although no classic, was exciting, combative and much closer than the league status of the two clubs suggested. Hanwell stayed in the game throughout, and they could very well have taken the tie to a Priory Lane replay.
Borough officials thought they had done their homework after watching a below-average Hanwell lose their previous league game at Uxbridge on a dreary wet Tuesday night. But by Saturday afternoon in sparkling sunshine, almost everything had changed – the personnel, the team shape, the tactics and the playing conditions. And, raising their game several notches, the West London outfit held the Sports for well over an hour.
It was a day for squad depth. With Steve James and James Ferry both injured, manager Danny Bloor slotted a very competent Jake Elliott into the back four, and gave the midfield slot to a polished, intelligent Charlie Towling.
With Lee Worgan - confident and rarely troubled - in goal and with impressive young full-backs James Beresford and Jack Currie playing beyond their years, the Sports are now looking solid at the back again - and further forward, the manager was spoiled for choice with half a dozen in-form attackers available.
Hanwell Town - the London Geordies - were up for the Cup and proved welcoming hosts. Their splendid ground, also used by QPR Ladies, boasts an immaculate, shimmering green grass pitch; a clubhouse bar with terrace overlooking the action; and a boardroom with home-made cake and galleries of old framed photos. Proper non-league. Current chairman Bob Fisher first played for Hanwell in 1955, and the Isthmian League President had called in for a visit. It was the sort of fixture where the away club really felt the need to apologise for winning...
But Danny's men left the nostalgia to the supporters (and reporters), and set about the job. The Geordies had set up quite cautiously, with a third centre-back, and they built well from the back. The piratically bearded figure of Terlochan Singh made an early impression in midfield, powering a 30-yard range-finder over Worgan's crossbar.
Defender Calum Duffy copped a yellow card for a foul on Chris Whlpdale, and from the free-kick Walker hit the defensive wall and then saw his follow-up shot saved. Then Currie found Greg Luer with a lovely diagonal ball but an offside flag curtailed the move.
The Sports were now into gear, and Whelpdale saw two shots blocked and a header powered too high, while Hutchinson and Currie were combining smartly on the left. In total, first-half goal attempts were well into double figures, but half-time arrived still goalless.
Hanwell opened brightly after the break, Ogo Obi almost nicking a ball from James Beresford in a danger area, but the young full-back – who continues to impress – recovered well to stifle the breakaway. Then an injury stoppage, only yards from Worgan’s goal, led to a tricky moment from the drop-ball, but the keeper cleared cannily.
From that point it was the Sports who steadily dominated pitch and possession. An influential Greg Luer played in Chris Whelpdale for a cross-shot just past the right post, and then Luer’s hook-back set up Hutchinson, whose shot was cleared off the line. Worgan picked out a curling shot from Dan Carr and instantly turned defence into attack with a long ball for Walker – whose shot drew a brilliant Hugo Sobte save.
Now it was almost total Eastbourne possession, and Hanwell were on a shrinking sandbank against a rising tide. James Hammond’s raking free-kick was headed away, and then his smart reverse pass set up a Charlie Walker shot, saved at the expense of a corner.
Hutchinson hooked an effort too high, and then played in Walker with a neat one-two, but the Borough skipper’s shot was blocked. Then in a rare Geordies break-out, Carr nicked a ball from Whelpdale and raced clear, but Luer briefly turned from striker to defender, chased sixty yards back, and snuffed the break.
In fact, the closer towards the 90 minutes that the clock ran down, the more Borough looked likely winners. And on 74 minutes, just after Bloor had replaced Hutchinson with Joel Rollinson, the home defence was breached. Like a greyhound from the traps, the lightning winger raced away on the right and played in Whelpdale, whose strike cannoned off the near post. Keeping his head amid the mayhem, Walker turned and slotted the loose ball into the net.
And with Charley Kendall and Josh Oyinsan bringing further fire-power off the bench, Hanwell were now not just on the sandbank, but running in quicksand. But to their credit, the home side did battle back with a final surge. A piercing run into the box drew a smart save from Worgan, and the ball fell to Tomasz Siemienczuk – who, with the heroic headline half-written, hooked the ball horribly wide of the right post.
Perhaps happily for Tomasz, his might-have-been moment was trumped in stoppage time when Kendall – who had just hammered a shot against the underside of the bar from a chance carved out by Jack Currie – sprinted clear, expertly eluded two defenders and drilled his shot past keeper Sobte’s right hand for 2-0.
Honour in defeat for Hanwell, businesslike progress for the Borough. The winners of the Horsham-Kingstonian game await Borough next.
Borough: Worgan; Beresford, Elliott, Dickenson, Currie; Towning, Hammond; Luer (Kendall 74), Whelpdale (Oyinsan 79), Hutchinson (Rollinson 72); Walker. Unused subs: Shaw, Corrie, Perez, Lambert
Referee: Ben Atkinson Att: 305
Borough MoM: Another sparkling full-back performance by Jack Currie.