In this season of extremes for the Borough, there has at least been some symmetry. It had opened with an improbable 0-5 home defeat to Hampton and Richmond Borough: a goal down in a minute, two down in six minutes, and a man down to a red card in eight. And the league programme ended last Saturday with another defeat by five clear goals: a cascade of calamity at the back, and no luck further forward.
If you’re going to lose, you may as well make a thorough job of it… But no matter. The manager and his coaching staff will have been furious, the players may have felt sheepish and humbled and a bit helpless. And the supporters? Well, whisper it softly, but we’ve rather enjoyed the ride. The Sports have played with panache and freedom, remaining among the highest scorers in the division and playing out only one goalless draw – a desperate encounter at Braintree Town on a bleak Essex February afternoon.
Danny Bloor stands for many things: commitment, honesty, loyalty, team before self, and in everything, positivity above negativity. He knows when to take the mickey – out of himself or others, including veteran reporters – and when to be deadly serious. Supporters know what they will get from the manager and his team, and the attendance figures have grown exponentially. Borough must be doing something right.
Last Saturday, of course, they got a few things wrong. Supporters by now will have watched the highlights in a darkened room and through the gaps between their fingers. But just in the interests of historical record, let’s re-live them one more time…
The game opened at furious pace, with a chance at either end even before Dartford’s fourth-minute opener – Dan Roberts finishing with a shot across Lee Worgan after a diagonal pass split the home defence. Another four minutes, and Borough were level, with one of Charley Kendall’s very finest strikes, scorching through the Darts’ defence and drilling his low shot like a snooker champion into the far pocket. Magnificent.
For Eastbourne, that was as good as it got. Twenty-odd minutes – and four decent Borough chances – later, Dartford surged ahead with Marcus Dinanga’s blast into the roof of the net, and doubled their lead before halftime through Kory Roberts’ header – a little fortunate, that one, since referee Oliver Mackey chose not to penalise a foul on Trent Mahorn an instant before.
Chris Whelpdale carved himself a great chance to pull one back, but only found the keeper with his final shot. Then Luke Nippard saw his shot saved at the end of a neat move, and Borough trooped in for their half-time cuppa, and words of wisdom, with a few things to put right.
At three-one, the Darts’ lead was not quite a decisive one, and Borough must have emerged with hope for the second half. But that hope was immediately replaced by despair, with three goals conceded in four minutes – the most disastrous little spell since that Hampton match in August. And they were simply awful goals from the defensive aspect – although Steve King will rightly acclaim his own side’s scintillating finishing.
First, the outstanding Kalvin Kalala was untracked as he got behind the defence and set up an easy finish for Dinanga’s second of the afternoon. Then Kalala himself grabbed two simple goals, pouncing on clumsy defensive errors – both by young players who have served the Eastbourne cause superbly, week in and week out. Perfection takes a little longer.
At 6-1, the game was over as a contest. Even so, the Sports were aggrieved just after the hour, to be denied a good goal of their own. From a right-wing corner, Chris Whelpdale’s close-range strike was miles – oh, very well, inches – over the goal-line. But the officials, presumably unsighted, failed to award the goal. Thankfully, the error did not affect the final score…
In fact, we still had a goal at each end to enjoy, as this madcap adventure into goalscoring lurched onwards. Borough substitutes Greg Luer and Leone Gravata brought a surge of fresh energy, but it was Dartford sub Jordan Greenidge who made it 7-1 after muscling his marker off the ball. Cricket score? On another day, under another sporting code, we might have renamed him Gordon Greenidge…
But Borough had the last word – ironically through their former player Kristian Campbell. The popular full-back was warmly welcomed back to the Lane, together with his wife and his delightful toddler daughter – for Borough are that sort of club and National South is that kind of community. And Kristian's popularity was raised a notch or two, for the wrong reasons, when he spectacularly headed a Gravata cross past his own keeper.
It was, you might say, the odd goal in nine…
And what of the play-offs? As expected, the final set of league results sends Borough to Oxford City tonight (Weds 11th) for a sudden-death showdown with the Hoops. Bloor and his staff will have done some hard thinking, and one or two changes of personnel – and perhaps a tweak of the team shape – would not be a surprise. But then, with this lot in this extravagantly entertaining season, nothing is very surprising any more.