Total football, total wipe-out: Eastbourne Borough have an exciting National South season ahead

It keeps getting better for Eastbourne Borough. A six-goal blitz at the Lane on Saturday left visitors Braintree Town in shreds and the home supporters in raptures.

Goal celebrations came, on average, every 15 minutes for Eastbourne against Braintree / Picture: Andy Pelling
Goal celebrations came, on average, every 15 minutes for Eastbourne against Braintree / Picture: Andy Pelling

The Sports dominated from start to finish, and were already a Charlie Walker goal up when, just past the half hour, the Essex visitors conceded a penalty, and lost Nathan Bertram-Cooper to a red card.

The Braintree defender had felled Chris Whelpdale in front of goal as the striker shaped to convert a lethal Greg Luer cross. James Hammond coolly converted, and Borough never looked back.

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Was that red card a turning point? Yes and no. Even with eleven men, Braintree would not have held this fluent, exuberant Eastbourne side. Passing short or long, moving on and off the ball, playing through midfield or over and behind the Essex defenders, Borough were unstoppable. Occasionally a ten-man team digs deep and produces something heroic, but not here. Braintree simply could not get the ball.

At the front of their team, the legend who is Femi Akinwande had bustled and battled and, early on, had looked a threat. But by the end, he was a lone and lonely figure. And Braintree’s other veteran, the experienced goalkeeper Preston Edwards, made two or three excellent stops but was left exposed by the fragile defence in front of him.

Even so, this was a Braintree side beaten only once in the league before Saturday – and Borough simply dismantled them. The Iron, ironically, had opened brightly and forced a 2nd-minute corner – but as it was cleared, Ezra Ikbuasi copped a yellow card for a desperate haul-back as Dom Hutchinson streaked clear. The young Watford loanee would later notch two goals in his most impressive game so far for the Sports.

Borough swiftly moved up through the gears and took a 1-0 lead on 20 minutes, when the outstanding Hammond lofted a free-kick that Mitch Dickenson perfectly headed back across goal for Walker’s emphatic finish. And when Hammond’s spot-kick doubled the score, the Iron were looking leaden footed. They did manage two goal attempts, an Ikbuasi header over the bar and a Correy Davidson shot saved by the assured Lee Worgan, but otherwise Borough dominated.

The second half opened with a remarkable phase of home attacking. For five minutes or more, the Iron simply could not get the ball. Luer put one header just too high and Whelpdale saw another cut-back cleared, but the visitors’ desperate defence was breached on 54 minutes.

Jack Currie – enterprising as ever from full-back – set up a Hammond shot, blocked but snappily followed up by Hutchinson for 3-0. And five minutes later Hutch made it 4-0, racing clear of a riskily high Braintree defensive line to plant a low shot past the keeper’s right hand.

Chris Whelpdale had done everything but score – until finally on 62 minutes he followed up with a triumphant finish after Edwards had bravely blocked Walker’s fierce angled drive. Five-nil, and half an hour to play. But home supporters really wanted seven - the scoreline by which Braintree had inflicted the Sports’ highest ever defeat in an FA Cup annihilation under Tommy Widdrington.

That fearful symmetry was avoided by the Essex visitors, but only just. Wave after wave of home attacks were somehow repelled before the sixth, and final, Eastbourne strike arrived on 81 minutes. Charley Kendall plundered his way through with defenders in his wake, to see his deflected shot followed up by fellow substitute Josh Oyinsan for the coup de grace.

Total football, total wipe-out. If Bloor can keep this squad together and keep them fit, then the Sports have a really exciting season in prospect.

Borough (4-2-3-1): Worgan; Beresford, Elliott, Dickenson, Currie; Hammond, Towning; Luer, Whelpdale (Oyinsan 65) , Hutchinson (Kendall 68) ; Walker (Rollinson 72).

Referee: a very competent Paul Johnson

Att: 651 happy punters Borough

MoM: James Hammond – when he ticks, Borough run like clockwork