The Wings were in a flap from the very start. From a smart Jaden Perez through ball Joel Rollinson, who has the pace to upset any defence in this division, was hauled back by centre-back Max Statham as he powered into the box. The instant caution was on the orange side of yellow, but Callum Walchester – impressive on the whistle – awarded a free-kick two yards outside the area. James Hammond’s curling effort was just a fraction too high.
This was only the opening salvo. For the next 43 minutes, the Sports tore into the home defence: this was to be the most one-sided half of football of the season. By half-time their count of corners and their scoring chances were both in double figures – and they had even missed a penalty.
If there is a section in the coaching manuals on Defensive Scrambling Back, then Welling had been studying it devotedly. Again and again, the Sports were getting into space behind their back line, but the red shirts of home defenders found ways of keeping their goal intact. Sometimes heroically, sometimes with a slice of good fortune – but the Wings stayed in the game.
Charley Kendall, foraging and finding space persistently, was played in by Greg Luer but the ball was hacked clear for two successive corners. Then Kendall was twice foiled by keeper Jack Sims as he cut through the home defence. Charlie Walker, a combative and inspiring skipper all afternoon, sped on to another Luer through ball but Sims – playing now like a one-man team – was quickly out to smother.
Luer himself darted on to a long through ball but a tight offside decision denied him. In between, Welling’s only realistic chance of the game was volleyed narrowly wide from a corner by former Sport Kris Campbell. But otherwise, the visitors were in total control.
Trent Mahorn – a decisive and athletic replacement for the injured Mitch Dickenson – was the next to play in Kendall, but this time a defender’s late interception saved the day.
This match report is turning tedious – but your reporter’s notebook simply shows one Borough chance after another. From a rare Wings corner, Jack Currie smartly sent Rollinson skimming through but another last-ditch interception earned Borough only a corner.
Next, Hammond’s superb floated pass found Luer, whose squared ball into the six-yard box was rudely booted to safety. Welling will surely only benefit from former England manager Peter Taylor’s guidance, but they had not quite graduated from his school of footballing science.
Mahorn drilled a pass through to Rollinson but once again the winger was crowded out as he shaped to shoot. Then Mahorn’s bullet header found a breaking Kendall, who beat the first defender but was foiled by the second.
A boxing match would by now have been stopped. Welling somehow swayed but did not buckle – at least, until the 39th minute, when Hammond floated a ball to Walker – who was bundled off the ball for a slightly soft penalty. Hammond, of course, always scores from the spot. Except this time. Sims – who had performed heroically all afternoon – guessed correctly and dived to stop the understruck kick.
Almost unnoticed, Steve James was impeccably marshalling the Eastbourne back line, alongside the impressive Mahorn and well supported by Currie and Elliott at full-back. Lee Worgan, as Borough watchers know, is among the most accomplished keepers in non-league – but on this afternoon, he might just have brought a Sudoku book out with him.
The Sports, as someone observed, had “won the first half 0-0”. But wouldn’t you know it: Welling, reprieved and re-energised, actually began the second half with purpose and much better teamwork. Brad Stevenson smartly played in new signing Tom Derry, but Worgs was instantly down at his feet to prevent the shot.
It couldn’t last. After Jack Currie had roared forward from full-back to spear a cracking shot that Sims brilliantly pushed out for a corner, the Sports finally got their breakthrough.
It came on 58 minutes, with two outstanding pieces of football skill. From a deep left-back position, Greg Luer looked up and played a dream of a diagonal pass, fully fifty yards, to release Kendall down the right. The striker broke clear, shrugged off his marker and bore down on goal to clip a perfect finish inside the back post. It had taken an hour, but it was worth the wait.
Now the Sports needed to see out the final half-hour. Joe Muscatt, a lively presence up front, skidded a low shot past the far post from a tasty position, and then substitute Dan Parish drew an excellent save from Worgan with a header. And as the clock wound down, Dipo Akinyemi was off target with a decent sight of goal.
But the last word was Eastbourne’s – in the last minute. Kendall squeezed between defenders on the right and unselfishly pinged a low pass to substitute Dom Hutchinson, who sealed the victory with a simple finish. An odd game in some respects, but a fully deserved three points on the road.
Borough: Worgan; Elliott, Mahorn, James, Currie; Hammond, Perez (Towning 83); Luer, Walker, Rollinson (Hutchinson 75); Kendall. Unused subs: Lambert, Beresford, Oyinsan.
Referee: Callum Walchester Att: 493
Borough MoM: in a fine team performance, Steve James was an unfussy unsung hero