Despite three successive narrow defeats against high-powered opposition, the Sports actually started Saturday’s fixture as slight favourites.
Chelmsford City arrived with a mediocre record – but with a big and physical line-up including the experience of Charlie Sheringham, who once scored a record seven goals at Priory Lane in a representative game.
Borough’s recent disappointments should be set against last Sunday’s FA Cup triumph by St Albans City. Defeat to the Saints by a single goal at Clarence Park is a statistic that they now share with League Two leaders Forest Green Rovers.
But football is all about your next game, not your last – and Danny Bloor’s men were focused and committed as they took on Chelmsford.
The manager had been sweating on the fitness of two or three key players, and home fans were cheered to find both James Hammond and skipper Charlie Walker back on the team-sheet.
And if they didn’t quite recognise the man in the number 19 shirt, then Jaden Perez was about to take them by surprise, and take the match by storm…
Playing into the teeth of a gale, the home forwards were swift out of the blocks, with a piercing Greg Luer run straight from the kick-off, followed by two quick corners. Then a vigorous Charley Kendall grazed the far post with a low cross-shot and curled another effort wide.
City wobbled for a while, but then got their bearings and responded. Chez Isaac made headway down the left and flighted in a super square ball for Charlie Sheringham – but under pressure from Mitch Dickenson the big striker saw his low drive touched round the right-hand post by Lee Worgan.
In a good spell of City pressure, Tom Blackwell hit a decent effort just wide and then saw his scuffed shot stopped by Worgan’s feet. But that was as close as Chelmsford came.
And, with Borough again on the front foot as half-time approached, the football genius of Greg Luer changed the game.
The enigmatic striker sometimes seems to vanish from the game. But when he resurfaces, his impact is all the more striking. Hammond and Joel Rollinson combined to find Luer, wide right and just over half-way, and his run swerved first infield past one opponent, and then back out wide past two more Clarets shirts.
The cross curled into that fatal space between keeper James Dillon and defender Adebola Oluwo – who helplessly deflected the ball off his thigh and into the net. An own goal, but really Luer’s goal.
The half-time lead was no more than Borough deserved. City had threatened only in brief breaks, and in defence and midfield they looked cumbersome.
Bloor’s men had been buoyant and purposeful – none more than Jaden Perez, whose work rate and sensible passing caught the eye. For a young man playing his first full National South game, it was an eye-opener.
His manager was equally impressed. Speaking after the match, Bloor explained: “Jaden has been making an impact in training for quite a while, and he is ready for competitive football. He’s just enjoyed some first-team games on loan at Burgess Hill, with Jay Lovett.
“When James Ferry had to pull out belatedly with illness, Jaden slotted in perfectly, and he fully deserves the man of the match award!”
But we are ahead of ourselves: there was a second half still to play. With the driving westerly gale now at their backs, the Sports were straight to their task.
Jack Currie – who is turning into as enterprising a full-back as any in this division – played in Walker, whose shot on the turn was only just wide.
Then Luer veered infield and struck a potent shot that was deflected for a corner – and a second goal was surely not far off. It came, with just a hint of controversy, when Walker got in behind the City defence and crossed low for an energetic Dom Hutchinson to smash home from five yards.
Chelmsford appealed vainly for offside against Walker, but the ball had been headed back to him from a City defender, and the goal stood. It was perceptive work and quick judgement by referee Marc Whaley – who, with his assistants James Hurst and Ollie Davies, had managed the game superbly. Cheerful authority, sound decisions, a genuine ten out of ten.
By now, the match was Borough’s to lose, and they managed the final quarter confidently. Hammond, who had run midfield splendidly on his return from injury, almost notched a third for Borough from Rollinson’s lethal through ball.
Chelmsford, to their credit, made a real fight of it, throwing on a couple of fresh substitutes and pulling one goal back with a smart Simeon Jackson strike from the D, but the Sports were in no mood to lose this one.
Back on track, then, after those three previous defeats. New QPR loan signing Trent Mahorn was on the bench but not called upon – Dickenson and Jake Elliott forming a dominant partnership – but Bloor will be glad to add depth to his squad. Winter nights may be drawing in, but it’s looking bright for the Borough.