By Ryan Newman
Eastbourne Town boss John Lambert said the performance of debutant Simon Johnson was the solitary positive after he witnessed his side fail to beat 10-man Peacehaven last Saturday.
Town signed Johnson from Eastbourne Borough late last week and the popular midfielder went straight into Lambert’s starting XI against Peacehaven.
Johnson came through the youth sytem at Priory Lane before spells at Maidstone United and Hastings United. He then rejoined the Sports in December 2017.
“He (Johnson) played very well but tired towards the end,” said Lambert. “Normally I would’ve taken him off but we had to make attacking substitutes in the search for a second goal. He hasn’t played a lot recently but I am sure he will build his fitness up in no time. He looked a class midfield player so we are very pleased to have him on board.”
Town will hope to return to winning ways when they travel to Loxwood tomorrow (Saturday, 3pm) before hosting Haywards Heath at the Saffrons on Tuesday evening.
After Haven squandered a couple of early chances, Town took the lead against the run of play in the 19th minute when a corner found talisman Evan Archibald unmarked at the back post and he converted with a side-foot volley from close range.
Peacehaven’s Conor Wilkins was then given his marching orders just past the half-hour mark and it looked a certainty that Town would go on to win fairly comfortably.
However, Haven came out with real purpose in the second-half and netted an equaliser just three minutes in when a long throw-in was flicked on by former Town captain Callum Sheriff and turned in by defender Marcus Allen.
Just three minutes later, Haven almost scored an identical goal as another long throw caused pandemonium in the Town box but the ball was eventually cleared.
Haven then rattled the bar when Allen got on the end of a free kick and Town were clearly reeling from the onslaught.
Towards the end of the encounter, Town finally started to make their extra man count but it was too little too late as they spurned numerous good chances to seal all three points.
In the final minutes, two corners resulted in a pair of wide efforts for Town before Haven keeper Erikson Aga made a good save from a long range effort and then an even better one in the final seconds from point blank range to salvage a well deserved point for the visitors.
“I was disappointed because we didn’t do enough to win the game despite the numerical advantage,” said Lambert.
“We didn’t press them enough after the sending off and then we let another sloppy goal in, which seems to be creeping back into our game at the moment.
“We still had two glorious chances to win it but unfortunately, as we are at the moment, we can’t seem to get that second goal.”
Town have now failed to score more than a single goal in three of their last four games and Lambert says not seeing out games is becoming a real problem for his side.
“There’s a pattern to our play at the moment and everytime we don’t get that second goal, the side gets nervous and you can see it in the team,” Lambert said.
“I told them at half-time that the only way they were going to score was from a set piece or a long throw and then five minutes into the second half thats exactly what they did.
“We keep letting silly goals in at the moment and we are not focussed properly and I can’t work out why.
“It is so frustrating because that’s another side that we should have beaten.
“We had the chances to beat them and we didn’t and then we get punished and that has happened a few times now since Christmas.
“I know people say one goal should be enough if you keep a clean sheet but at this level teams will always get chances.
“Even the lesser sides get a chance or two and if they take it we have to kill teams off.”
Lambert also blasted his sides lack of an ability to get the basics right in recent games.
“It is just ridiculous that players today can’t read things because it’s not all about attacking and scoring goals, it’s about recognising dangerous situations,” said Lambert.
“Then at the other end, with Evan upfront it makes sense for us to load crosses into the box but we never seem to be able to clear the first man. For me that is so basic.
“We practice it every single training session but it just doesn’t make a difference. Maybe that is why they are playing at this level.”
Looking ahead to their next pair of fixtures, Lambert admits the midweek Haywards Heath game can no longer be billed as a top of the table clash due to both sides recent form.
Town have now slipped to seventh whilst early season pacesetters Heath have dropped to fourth.
“You could look at the league and say Haywards Heath and ourselves aren’t quite in the frame anymore,” said Lambert.
“A few weeks ago this was a mega top of the table clash but we have been overtaken by the likes of Horsham, Three Bridges and Pagham.
“We’ll keep going, there’s still 12 games to go and we’ll try and accumulate as many points as we can. One good win and you’re back in it, so we just need to ride this storm at the moment. If you look at (league leaders) Horsham they were no where near a few weeks ago and now they have put an amazing run together thanks to consistently picking up clean sheets.”
Lambert also admits to not currently knowing his best side in the wake of their recent form.
“With the way things are going, I am not quite sure what my best XI is,” said Lambert. I won’t be making wholesale changes but I am not afraid to tweak things here and there. As a squad they need to step it up because no one is setting the world alight at the moment.”