Hopes of a season shattered in one crazy week

EASTBOURNE Borough will look back on last season as one when their capabilities failed to achieve the deserved results.

Garry Wilson's team proved capable of beating the best teams the Conference South had on offer.

But a ridiculous end-of-season schedule, in which they had to play four games in the final eight days, finally shattered hopes of a play-off place.

Look at the play-off teams and it is little wonder that manager Garry Wilson and head coach Nick Greenwood must have been spending many hours contemplating what might have been.

Borough took four points off runaway champions Histon, including a memorable win away from home with a patched-up side.

They completed the double over play-off finalists Salisbury and would surely have taken four points off Braintree but for injuries and fatigue in what was the 10th game of April.

They beat play-off semi-finalists Bishop's Stortford 2-1 at home and lost 1-0 away.

But the fact remained that none of the top six teams took maximum points off Borough who even outplayed Northwich Victoria in the FA Trophy. They hit the woodwork twice at Hastings, only to lose by the only goal and then watched Northwich march on to the Trophy semis.

But beating the best is not always good enough.

To win promotion, you cannot afford to let the worst off the hook and this, at the end of the day, was to prove Borough's downfall.

Bedford Town propped up the table yet Borough managed only a paltry point against them, including a 0-3 horror show at home.

Lowly teams like Hayes, Basingstock and Thurrock featured among Borough's 15 draws of which many were Eastbourne dominated, battling against spoiling, packed defences.

While last season provided lessons for the future, there is little doubt that this was Borough's best ever squad. Players such as Marc Pullan and skipper Paul Armstrong produced tremendous levels of consistency.

And if Adam Wilde and Allan Tait could only have started the season as they finished it, who knows what Borough's final position might have been?

As it was the pair featured brilliantly in the latter part of the season, Tait finishing second highest scorer with 15 goals, one behind Scott Ramsay and one more that Pat Harding who was signed from County League Hassocks and grew in stature as the season progressed.

Clearly Borough's play-off hopes suffered with New Year pitch problems, huge rainfall causing a string of postponements bringing about the bizarre end-of-season schedule.

If the Newport and Bognor games, played in that horrendous last week, had been able to be staged at their proper times, Borough would at least have been able to face Braintree with a squad not decimated by injury and suffering extreme fatigue.

Unlike many teams at the same level, Borough do not operate with a large, over-paid squad. Bosses Wilson and Greenwood adhere rigorously to a budget which keeps the club financially vibrant.

Hopefully, the summer will see sufficient money being spent on the pitch which will put right the problems which produced postponements when even park teams in the town were still playing.

Looking to the future, the signing of Danny Leach will give hope for all promising local players.

Borough rightly pursue a policy of giving local players their chance and history will show that locals such as Darren Baker, Ben Austin, Andy Atkin and Matt Crabb have taken that chance with both hands.

Sadly it has been a disastrous season for Crabb who has suffered terribly with injuries. He could have been the one player to unlock the packed defences of the struggling sides.

Wilson and Greenwood should now be able to look forward to a less active summer than in recent years.

Borough have a squad almost capable to taking them to the highest sphere in non-league football.. What they need more than anything is a striker capable of scoring 20-30 goals.

Leach, like Harding, found scoring easy in the County League. In the Conference South it is a very different scenario.

But after three seasons of Conference South football, Borough will surely be back among the serious challengers for that highest rung next season.

But let nobody kid themselves. There will be others with the same idea and more money.

It certainly won't be easy.