More late agony for Borough as Hemel boost play-off bid
Another Saturday, another eventful afternoon at the Lane '“ and yet again Eastbourne Borough allowed a game to slip away, losing 3-2 to a stoppage time Hemel Hempstead winner.
If games of football finished on 89 minutes, Borough would now be in the play-off places. They have lost eleven points this season – as well as exiting the FA Cup against Dover – to goals scored in the 90th minute or added time.
Déjà vu? On Easter Monday, Havant had grabbed a scarcely deserved equaliser from a needless free kick to deny the Sports victory, and this time an identical goal from a wide-right free-kick was diverted by Hemel full-back Ben Herd past Lewis Carey for the winning strike. Borough slip to 15th place, although any relegation threat is only a mathematical fiction. Tommy will simply focus on ensuring a top-half finish, but he could have done without this.
This time, the Borough frustration was compounded by the dismissal of Gavin McCallum, whose reflex-action handball – in an innocuous touchline position – had earned him a second yellow card from referee Andrew Laver. It was an uncomfortable return to Priory Lane for Mr Laver, in his first Borough game since dismissing Widdrington at Maidstone. McCallum’s first caution, on 24 minutes, had looked trivial, and was followed instantly by a bizarre yellow for Craig Stone, when Hemel’s Ollie Thorne had actually clattered into the Borough player.
Meanwhile Hemel skipper Kyle Connolly was fortunate to stay on the field beyond the half-hour mark. Already booked on 13 minutes for stopping a flying Haysman run, he tangled with Darren Lok and caught the striker’s ankle as Lok scrambled clear of him, but he escaped a second yellow. Mr Laver did fetch the book out late in the game, to caution Morgan Ferrier and Graeme Montgomery as the visitors wilfully ran the clock down.
Deprived by injuries of four players including Jamie Taylor, Tommy had set up with speed merchants Lok and Romain up front, keeping Nat Pinney on the bench in reserve. Bournemouth loan pair Callum Buckley and Matt Worthington both impressed, Buckley getting much more right than wrong at centre-back and Worthington, after a competent hour at right-back, looked a class act when switched into midfield.
The afternoon had started at a bright and sometimes frantic pace. Montgomery and Jack Kelly each skied chances for the Tudors, but the Sports had more of the ball. Carey’s massive kick sent Lok racing beyond the Hemel defence, but Butler’s alert goalkeeping denied him. Then Butler went full length to push Stone’s power drive past the left post, and two minutes later Beale’s curling free-kick was knocked back across goal by Stone but bounced just wide.
At the other end Ferrier – who formed a vigorous strike pairing with Ibra Sekajja – diverted Thorne’s wayward shot against the crossbar, but otherwise the momentum was with Eastbourne, and four minutes before half-time came the breakthrough. McCallum expertly dispossessed full-back Herd and drilled in a low cross which Lok turned into goal for 1-0.
The furious visitors came out of the dressing room like bikers revving for a rally. On 55 minutes a slick move found Ferrier free on the right of the area and he drove a low shot across Carey to equalise.
Less than two minute later the Tudors were ahead. Borough defended indecisively as a ball came in from the left and Sekajja’s slightly mishit, tumbling shot sneaked past a wrong-footed Carey into the bottom right corner.
Borough steadily got their balance back, and with two changes they regained a foothold. Reverting to a back four, he slotted Worthington into midfield, where the youngster’s swiftness of thought and movement instantly had Hemel struggling. One super combination with Romain put him in on goal but the final shot splayed wide.
With a slim lead to defend, the Tudors’ methods were now about as endearing as a boorish Henry VIII. Ben Herd crumpled alarmingly under an alleged elbow from Romain, who – in the unobstructed view from the press benches – had actually made no contact, and Mr Laver was not deceived. The charade continued long enough for Herd to receive treatment, although happily there were to be no signs of ill effects when he knocked in that late winner.
Then Hemel managed to stretch out the taking of one free kick to a minute and a half, and the life was painfully strangling out of a previously entertaining game. But there were two more twists to come.
On 84 minutes Pinney and Khinda-John combined on the right, and the cross reached substitute Nathan Collier, whose header looped over a poorly placed Butler and squeezed under the crossbar to level the score.
A draw was looking about right, but then the big red Priory Lane clock moved past the ninety – and ticked on just long enough to snatch away Borough’s point.
Borough: Carey; Worthington, Khinda-John, Simpemba, Buckley, Beale; Stone, Haysman, McCallum; Romain, Lok. Unused subs: Bosma, Worrall, Botting.
Referee: Andrew Laver
Borough MoM: Matt Worthington – a young man with a future.