Four games unbeaten, and four new faces in the squad: Eastbourne Borough’s fortunes have suddenly freshened up as they take the road tomorrow (Saturday) to Braintree Town.
After disposing of Royston in the FA Trophy and then beating Gloucester City on the road, Borough saw off a lively Worthing side in midweek in the Senior Cup.
“Credit to Worthing, who are full of good players and they gave us a really hard test,” said manager Jamie Howell. “But we are getting a bit of momentum now and we’re cutting out the errors.”
Borough’s recent encounters with Braintree Town have been less than happy.
A year ago in the first round proper of the FA Cup, the Sports travelled to Essex with high hopes of an upset. But on the day, everything went wrong, and Borough found themselves on the end of a 7-0 demolition.
Braintree, despite an upturn in league form, were relegated to National South – and arrived at Priory Lane for the first game of the new season with a new manager, Brad Quinton, and a totally changed squad.
And although many observers expected the Iron to struggle, they poached a scarcely deserved 3-2 victory over Borough.
Jamie Howell had seen his new charges stride to a 2-0 half-time lead, but the controversial sending-off of Kiran Khinda-John by referee David Spain turned the match on its head. So is there a score to settle on Saturday?
“Well, you might think it gives us an extra incentive,” said Jamie.
“But in reality we treat all opponents with equal respect. If you start picking and choosing, or thinking that one match is more important than another, you create yourself a problem.
Howell’s recruitment is ongoing, and only a pretty naïve supporter would have expected perfection within less than half a season. But the recent transfer activity at Priory Lane should have quietened the sceptics: four new arrivals in the past ten days, all of them with plenty to offer.
“We think we have done our homework, and my assistants Danny Bloor and Dean Lightwood are both guys who know the circuit and have excellent contacts – so between us we have done some pretty good business.”
The imposing figure of goalkeeper Mark Smith is already impressing the Borough faithful, and this week Mark was joined on loan from Aldershot Town by Shaun Okojie, a young man with phenomenal striking potential, who already notched a spectacular equaliser against Worthing. Add to that defender Ugo Udoji – who has twice won the Conference South with Bromley and Salisbury – and returning favourite Simon Johnson, and the Borough squad suddenly looks stronger and deeper.
Jamie Taylor is a doubt, having picked up a knee injury against Gloucester, and Gary Charman has damaged ankle ligaments, but otherwise Howell takes a fit squad over the Dartford Crossing.
For once, he may be spoiled for choice.