A flying start to the season? On the evidence of Saturday’s home defeat to Maidenhead, Borough boss Tommy Widdrington would probably like to start all over again.
After a goalless first half in which neither side convinced, the Sports briefly led through a 54th minute Ryan Worrall penalty – cancelled out three minutes later by a Maidenhead spot kick – before the visitors snatched a winner just four minutes from time.
On a baking hot day and a gorgeous green pitch, Priory Lane saw a clash of cultures: a home side looking to play high-paced and possibly high-risk football, and a visiting team with a physical edge looking to stop them.
After a promising pre-season, Priory Lane hopes were high for a stylish display, but individual errors often upset the fluency.
Maidenhead boss Alan Devonshire cut a distinctive touchline figure, complete with his trademark flat brown cap. He has a rather more stately shape nowadays than the slim-line creative West Ham dynamo of the 1970s, and in truth his Maidenhead team put application before artistry.
But beating Eastbourne will always be high on the Devonshire wish-list, ever since his Hampton and Richmond team lost to Garry Wilson’s triumphant promotion side in the 2009 Conference Play-Offs.
In his team that night was a young Ben Wright, and the tall striker – newly signed – was a commanding figure all afternoon. Starting in a strike duo alongside the equally powerful Jake Reid, Wright also dropped off at times to forge moves from midfield, and Borough were at full stretch to contain him.
A 10th minute free-kick, sublimely delivered by the promising Miguel Baptista, came close to giving Sports the lead, and with Darren Lok running his socks off up front, there was no lack of effort.
United had their own chances. The lively Dave Tarpey put in a teasing cross which Reid should have converted, and then Lewis Carey did well to push away Wright’s stinging low drive.
Eastbourne looked brighter after the interval, and they gained reward when Nat Pinney was tripped in the box, Worrall despatching the penalty with emphatic power.
It might have been a turning point, and Elliott Romain almost doubled the lead with a terrific run from half-way before shooting too high. But almost instantly Sam Beale’s swinging leg caught a tumbling Josh Huggins to allow Wright to equalise from the spot. A previously sluggish game was now alight and quite fiery, with unconvincing referee Lee Venamore only just keeping control. Skipper Ian Simpemba – who as always was giving blood for the cause – earned a yellow card but the visitors surprisingly escaped any cautions.
Either side could have claimed it. Baptista struck just over the bar with a sweet turn and shot, but the Magpies, with a couple of energetic substitutions, were looking likelier. And on 86 minutes they grabbed the points. Ryan Upward’s fierce low drive was well saved by Carey but fell kindly to Reid, who angled his shot just inside the far post for 2-1. There was time for a brilliant recovery save by Carey from a phenomenal Sam Barratt 40-yarder, and for some frantic do-or-die attacks by the Sports, but no equaliser.
Widdrington will certainly not lose faith with his squad. He may well tweak the team shape in the coming games, or more probably shift the pieces around the jigsaw, but there is better to come from Borough. Even so, one false start is still one too many.
Borough: Carey; Stone, Simpemba, Khinda-John, Beale; Collier, Worrall (Evans 69); Baptista, Lok, Pinney (McCallum 78), Romain (Haysman 63). Unused subs: Bosma, Wilson.
Maidenhead: Penthey, Peters, Pritchard, Upward, Massey, Inman, Tarpey (Barratt 69), Mulley, Reid, Wright (James 74), Huggins (Nisbet 74). Referee: Lee Venamore
Att: 551 MoM: Kiran Khinda-John – hardly put a foot wrong