National South relegation battle: Will Eastbourne Borough end on right side of fine margins?

Fine margins: as Eastbourne Borough enter the final three weeks of an epic and sometimes surreal season, everyone at the club will need to get everything right.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

The Sports have seven games to save their National South status. They are in good shape, and keen as mustard to prove themselves on the pitch, but half a dozen other clubs are in exactly the same situation. Who will keep their nerve, and who will crack? Who will have the stamina, and who will wilt? Who will get the lucky deflection, and who will suffer the marginal refereeing decision?

The fixtures: Maidstone, Weymouth, Chippenham at home. Dartford, Weston-super-Mare, Truro City and Braintree away.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The relegation scramblers: Dover Athletic are effectively down. Havant are in serious danger. Dartford, Taunton, Truro and Hemel Hempstead are entangled with Borough in the battle to evade the bottom four.

In it together - and it's a big Easter double lying ahead of the Eastbourne Boro squad | Picture: Lydia RedmanIn it together - and it's a big Easter double lying ahead of the Eastbourne Boro squad | Picture: Lydia Redman
In it together - and it's a big Easter double lying ahead of the Eastbourne Boro squad | Picture: Lydia Redman

There are too many permutations, but the Sports are by no means poorly placed. Their squad and their current form puts them ahead of other strugglers. And their run-in is manageable, compared with the chaotic schedule of both Taunton and Truro.

The outcome of Borough’s abandoned game with the Cornishmen is still in suspended animation. A serious injury to Alex Finney had cut short that fixture – goalless at the time – but a return trek to Gloucester, where City are fulfilling their fixtures, seems inevitable.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A haul of four victories out of seven appears the absolute minimum. And it starts today (Good Friday) with a huge home fixture against Maidstone United. The FA Cup heroes arrive at Priory Lane for a 3pm showdown – themselves seeking points to strengthen their play-off push. Can Borough raise their game and scupper the Stones?

After an Easter weekend’s recovery – but stay off the chocolate, lads – Murray takes his eager squad to Dartford – for a showdown which simply defines the term six-pointer. The North Kent club have this season spluttered, like a lorry out of fuel, ever more groggily towards the drop zone. A change of manager and a patched-up playing squad has left the Darts in serious peril. An Easter Monday victory would open up a survival path for Borough. The margins will be fine, but the club is geared for it.

Messrs Leslie, Williams and Bonar – respectively owner, CEO and general manager – have worked tirelessly to get the logistics right. With the input of head of recruitment Mark Anderson, the manager has a full and reshaped squad.

Lightning wild-card attacker Yahya Bamba and seasoned striker Matt Green, the two latest recruits, give extra options up front. The back line looks far more stable than before Christmas, with Moussa Diarra a giant in every sense, and Alfie Bendle and Jack Clarke bring the midfield creativity. If only Borough could start this season again…

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But the buck stops with the Gaffer. Murray is quite a manager and quite a character. His training sessions, immaculately planned, are a coaches’ blueprint. After-match, he can switch in an instant from taking the rise out of reporters, to giving a serious forensic analysis of the previous ninety minutes, and then to a wry off-record comment. He is devastatingly honest in his opinions, and generous in his praise for his players’ progress.

Will all this be enough? Fine margins – as fine as the offside decisions which went Borough’s way in the exciting 1-1 draw at Slough Town last weekend. As fine as the refereeing decisions which, bluntly, deprived Borough of precious points against Hampton and Dover in the previous fortnight.

If Priory Lane is to host National South football next season, it will be by the skin of their teeth. The final circuit of a season-long roller-coaster, sometimes sluggish, often precarious, usually unpredictable. But goodness, it’s been a ride.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.