After six league games without a win, Elliott Romain’s eighth goal of the season proved enough to secure Eastbourne Borough maximum points at the expense of bottom-of-the-table Bishop’s Stortford who showed a fighting spirit that belied their lowly position.
Whatever the team, wherever the position, there are simply no easy games in this season’s National League South.
Bishop’s arrived at Priory Lane with just eight points from 15 games, all of which had been gathered away from home.
And if they had shown any kind of composure in front of goal they would have returned home with at least another one to their credit.
But this was a game Borough needed to win and if the fluency of play and accuracy of distribution were often missing, they did end up with three very important points to halt a worrying drop into the league’s lower region.
A good run in the FA Cup is great, but sometimes that can affect league form with players’ minds on more exciting adventures ahead.
Saturday’s victory means that Tommy Widdrington’s men can make the trip to Braintree with that much more confidence.
If there were points for possession, Borough would have been home and dry at half-time. But despite their near total command, the hosts only rarely able to trouble visiting keeper Tom Lovelock.
Certainly Lovelock did superbly well to halt the progress of Nat Pinney after he had somehow muscled his way through a packed Bishop’s defence.
Lovelock was in action again when he grabbed Brian Dutton’s header from a corner right on the line.
A rare moment of real quality in the 41st minute produced the only goal and it was fitting that it should involve loan signing Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain, younger brother of the Arsenal star, who showed some nice touches throughout. Josh Hare slid a low ball down the right and the classiest of crosses by Oxlade-Chamberlain was nodded home at the far post by Romain.
Not for the first time this season, Josh Hare was close to getting on the scoresheet, seeing a ferocious free-kick diverted for a corner and being inches off target with a thunderous drive from Pinney’s cross.
Bishop’s came out fighting in the second half and should have levelled in the 55th minute. Michael Richens found Jamie Slabber unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box, but the burly striker somehow scooped the ball over the bar.
Borough continued to suffer anxious moments, but it was the hosts who went closest to doubling their advantage. Brian Dutton headed into the side netting following a corner and as the game entered stoppage time, Jamie Taylor hit the post from an acute angle. The ball rebounded to Alex Smith whose shot brought a great save from Lovelock.
So it was relief all round as Borough emerged with much-needed points. But at the end of it all two mysteries remained.
1) Borough have made it into the first round proper of the FA Cup but what has happened to the cup fever that should be sweeping the town? It’s good news that two full coaches will be making the trip to Braintreebut surely the crowd watching Tommy Widdrington’s men should be far exceeding the 453 who were there on Saturday.
2) How on earth did the sponsors manage to come up with Alex Smith as man-of-the-match when he was only on the field for half-an-hour? True, he did nothing wrong and might have been on the scoresheet but for a great save by the keeper. But his performance could not be compared with the 90-minute efforts of players such as Pinney, Elliott, Ian Simpemba and Kiran Khina-John. I am a great admirer of Alex Smith who continues to show lots of promise, but surely only his mum could have made him MoM.
Eastbourne: Carey, Hare, Dutton, Hughes, Simpemba, Khinda-John, Stone, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Baptiste 80), Pinney (Taylor 64), Romain, McCallum (Smith 60). Unused subs: O’Reilly, Worrall.
Bishop’s Stortford: Lovelock, Ekpiteta (Rodgers 87), Herd, Ritchens, Allen, Hickford, Moncur, Fagan, Slabber (Kouassi 71), Akinwande, Greene (Ronto 80). Unused subs: Ekim, Gordon.
Referee: Savvas Yianni
Mom: Elliott Romain - much hard work as well as scoring the match-winner
Bookings: Ian Simpemba and Gavin McCallum (Borough); Johnny Herd (Bishop’s Stortford).
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