Borough boss: That was quite possibly the poorest performance since I took over
It isn’t over 'til it’s over. Eastbourne Borough’s visit to Hemel Hempstead on Saturday squeezed as much drama into the six minutes of added time as in the previous 90 minutes.
An unmemorable National South contest had stumbled its way towards a 1-1 draw – both goals coming from dubious penalty awards – before the hosts suddenly grabbed a stoppage-time lead. And with home fans and officials pleading with referee Ross Martin for the final whistle, Borough earned one final corner from which substitute Josh Oyinsan whacked in the equaliser.
The 2-2 result – Eastbourne’s third Desmond in four matches – was about right. Winless Hemel had looked a bit better than a bottom-of-table side, but they played with more perspiration than inspiration. And Sports manager Danny Bloor, never a man to mince words, had scant praise for his team afterwards.
“That was quite possibly the poorest performance since I took over as manager. We were careless, we lacked energy. Lee Worgan thankfully had a fine first game for us in goal. And I will exempt Jack Currie, who returned after his illness and played really well. But other than that, I’ve told the whole team that we have to put it right, and very quickly.”
Bloor’s counterpart Lee Birchall, if local rumour was correct, faced the dreaded call from his chairman if the Tudors had fallen to yet another defeat. Henry the Eighth survived only five of his six wives, but Birchall was more fortunate, and Matchday Number Six brought him at least the reprieve of a last-ditch draw.
Unlike an Amex or an Emirates, non-league football grounds seldom suffer from that undignified scramble for the exits as some punters get ahead of the rush. But at Vauxhall Road, we were gripped until the very final whistle of stoppage time – after a very forgettable ninety minutes.
In fact, we can dispense with those minutes in two paragraphs. The Tudors started strongly but quite bluntly before, from a 30th-minute corner, referee Ross Martin judged a typical piece of goalmouth bustling to be worthy of a penalty, which James Hammond despatched to put Borough ahead.
As night follows day, one dubious penalty award follows another – and with time running out for the desperate Tudors, James Kaloczi’s dramatic tumble under a very routine challenge gave the home side and the referee a chance to balance matters out – JJ Lacey equalising from the spot.
And then to the real drama of added time. A searching pass from half-way found Liam Bennett, who trampled Currie aside as he knocked the ball off for Lacey to strike a deflected shot past Worgan for 2-1. Perhaps Mr Martin was carried away with the excitement, but the foul on Currie was ludicrously ignored and the home side were ahead.
Hemel celebrated deliriously – but all too soon. Borough, to their credit, raged back and threw everything into salvaging a point. The allotted four extra minutes were almost up when they earned a free-kick on the half-way line, launched forward and cleared for a corner.
The Tudors – whose own goal celebrations had caused an extension to the added time – were seething as Mr Martin correctly permitted the flag-kick to be taken, as a part of the same attacking phase. It was knocked across goal from beyond the back post, and Oyinsan poked the ball in.
Not a classic game, nor a five-star Eastbourne performance: but at least those final six minutes had made up for the previous ninety.
Borough: Worgan; Beresford, Elliott, Dickenson, Currie; Ferry, Hammond; Rollinson (Hutchinson 70), Whelpdale, Kendall (Walker 56); Luer (Oyinsan 79).
Unused subs: Shaw, Towning.
Referee: Ross Martin Att: 369
Borough MoM: Jack Currie – virtually flawless on his return to the side