Lack of goals continue to slow Eastbourne Town’s league progress

Eastbourne Town celebrate their opening goal at the Saffrons
Eastbourne Town celebrate their opening goal at the Saffrons

By Ryan Newman

Eastbourne Town manager John Lambert once again bemoaned his sides lack of a killer instinct in the wake of their 1-1 draw at home to Haywards Heath on Tuesday evening.

Chris Cumming-Bart’s early penalty gave the home side the lead but was swiftly cancelled out by Melford Simpson’s composed finish.

Both sides had multiple chances to win the game throughout the second half with Town having many efforts blocked and Heath hitting the woodwork twice. That is now three games in a row Town have failed to score more than a single goal and Lambert knows he needs more from his forward players if promotion is to remain a possibility.

“We always seem to score first but we can’t get that second goal that pushes us on,” said Lambert.

“I thought we dominated the second half, they were throwing bodies in front of everything and it just didn’t go in for us. They hit the post and crossbar but that came as a result of us pushing more and more for a winner.

“It is a pattern for us in the big games, we score one and no matter how we push for the second it just doesn’t come. It is a worry because we practice final third situations quite a bit. We have obviously been without Jason Taylor and Aaron Hopkinson who are two big players for us going forward.”

Town have been without Taylor since the turn of the year due to a long-term hernia injury. The proven goalscorer had a run out for the under 21s earlier this week.

“He played for the under-21s this week but he’s struggling,” said Lambert.

“I think he is waiting for an operation for the Hernia injury and so some days he’s really good and sometimes he’s not.

“He trained on Saturday, played 90 minutes for the under-21s on Monday and scored, but then yesterday his body was really struggling.

“There is another 21’s game tomorrow night, he won’t play that and then hopefully we might have him available for us on Saturday.

“Scoring goals has just been a problem for us since christmas. We’ve scored four against the likes of Littlehampton and Broadbridge Heath but against the better sides we don’t take our chances.

“It doesn’t matter so much against the lesser sides because more chances will present themselves but against the better sides you have to take them and we’ve been guilty of missing too many and it has come back to haunt us.”

With both teams gunning for promotion but slipping slightly off the pace in recent weeks, a draw was of no real use to either side.

Being the home side, the onus was on Town to take the game to Heath and they did so throughout.

Town begun the contest at a fast tempo, knocking the ball around with confidence, pressing extremely high when out of possession and looking to use Aaron Capon’s pace to get in behind whenever possible.

Town had their reward after just three minutes when Capon tried to latch on to a great through ball played between the two Heath centre halves and got his toe to the ball first before being clattered by Heath goalkeeper Joshua Heyburn.

Cumming-Bart duly stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick and outwitted Heyburn by slotting his penalty straight down the middle.

Just ten minutes later Heath drew level from their first meaningful attack when the giant Simpson slotted home past Greg Nessling in the Town goal after being played in behind.

The town defence were adamant that Simpson was offside but their appeals fell on deaf ears.

“I couldn’t fault the effort. I thought we were fantastic in that respect,” said Lambert. “We looked fitter than them and I thought we carried the fight to them.

“Defensively, I thought we coped well with the big fella. Although he scored, both my centre halves were certain he was offside.

“The trouble is some County League officials don’t look that fit and I don’t think they always get themselves in line. I think that sometimes is a problem but I know that is because there is a shortage of officials so they have to put on people who maybe need fitness tests.

“We have had that linesman a few times and I don’t think he gets himself in the right positions because of his fitness.”

Town then spurned two great chances to restore their lead before half-time. First, Capon could only toe poke an effort wide of the post after being played in behind once again. Then Evan Archibald couldn’t keep his back-post header down from a corner.

Town continued to probe throughout the second half but without quite as much penetration and Heath were therefore able to create a few chances on the counter.

Kane Louis came close when his cross-shot from the left hand side evaded everyone and clipped the crossbar on its way over.

Louis and Heath hit the woodwork for a second time after his solo run resulted in a good effort from just inside the area.

At this stage, Heath seemed to accept their fate and settled for holding on to their point for the final 20 minutes.

Capon had a good shot from a tight angle well saved by Hepburn before Archibald’s cross found new signing Simon Johnson on the edge of the area but his piledriving effort that seemed destined for goal was blocked by a Town player.

A draw, although unhelpful for both can’t be viewed as anything other than a fair result in a game that was a good advert for the standard of the Southern Combination Premier League.