…as the Sports dealt efficiently with the challenge of Isthmian South Central visitors Uxbridge FC, winning – a bit more comfortably than the 2-0 scoreline suggests – with a goal in each half.

After the tempestuous events of Borough’s previous match at Priory Lane – an ill-tempered defeat to Welling United – it was a pleasure to return to what football at our level should be: cordial visitors, courteously received, and a match played in excellent spirit. Uxbridge, from officials to management to players and supporters, represented their club with great credit. They will be welcome visitors back to the Lane at any time (which is probably a fateful prediction that we’ll draw each other in the Trophy!).

The kick-off was preceded by an impeccable minute’s silence for Her Late Majesty. We were also honoured, albeit with sadness, to make mention of the passing of David Tucker, Uxbridge treasurer and a life-long servant of the club.

The match itself was not really a knife-edge thriller, but it was far from a walk-over for Danny Bloor’s men. For most of the afternoon, a single goal separated the teams – and we were just one breakaway, one opportunist strike, away from a Tuesday night replay in West London. An absorbing and often entertaining Cup tie remained in the balance until Simo Mbonkwi’s 78th minute goal doubled Eastbourne’s lead and broke brave Uxbridge hearts.

Borough had dominated almost throughout, with only a Chris Whelpdale goal – squeezed in on 20 minutes from Jake Hutchinson’s cross – to show for their waves of attacks. Uxbridge, short on attacking penetration but immensely strong on resilience and disciplined defence, bowed out, but with honour.

The National South side were on the front foot from the start, with sweeping waves of attacks and some awesome wing play from Shiloh Remy and Leone Gravata on their respective flanks. Remy was virtually unplayable, darting, feinting, accelerating, and the only two yellow cards issued – in an overall sporting contest – were copped by Uxbridge defenders Kensley Maloney and Joe Jackson, in vain attempts to stop him.

Gravata was once again an absolute handful for defenders. Leone has added physicality and a dash of legal aggression to his game, and after a patient 21-22, he is in regular contention for a starting shirt. With Greg Luer likely to be ready for next weekend’s Concord Rangers trip, and Charlie Walker on the mend, the manager will have a frightening array of fire-power to call on.

The Sports broke the deadlock when Uxbridge keeper Matt Bonnett was deceived by Jake’s angled ball in and beaten at the back post by Whelpdale, the thinking man’s playmaker – who had tweaked a muscle a couple of minutes earlier and substituted. Simo, in his place, was an athletic perpetual-motion presence: he must be a nightmare to play against!

Uxbridge’s first and only corner, on 30 minutes, was scrambled clear from a crowded goalmouth – and that was as close as they came, until the very late stages. Tricky front-man Evans did fire early one effort wide of Lee Worgan’s left post, from a piercing Joe Jackson run, but otherwise Worgs was untroubled.

Brad Barry had slotted in at centre-back (his third starting position in three weeks as a Sport!) alongside skipper Mitch Dickenson, who directed things with his usual unfussy command. Kai Innocent enjoyed more freedom to get forward than in some recent matches, and made the most of it.

James Vaughan dropped into the other full-back with his typical assurance – allowing a welcome first appearance of the season for Jaden Perez. Most Borough line-ups this season have started with – in modern coaching parlance – Vaughan at 4 and James Hammond at 8, but Bloor’s positional tweaks worked seamlessly on Saturday, and they are the sign of a squad of players who know each other’s roles.

Vaughan, indeed, deservedly earned MoM from sponsors Dysons Heating. This reporter thought Shiloh might have edged it – but Borough Women’s manager Richard Dyson knows a thing or two about coaching, so we certainly won’t quibble!

Changing round into a buffeting wind, the Sports still controlled the second half, but Uxbridge drew up the drawbridge, with centre-half Harry Seabrook prominent. Hutchinson had put in an admirable shift – strikers do much more than simply score goals, and Jake is really pulling his weight up front, including of course a goal assist on Saturday.

Taking over on 67 minutes, Sam Ompreon was quite a revelation. Hardly known as yet to the Priory Lane faithful, Sam was instantly making explosive runs. And the substitutions would later be completed with a cameo from Sam Bull, just 17, whose first three minute taste of the FA Cup won’t be his last…

And the siege was unbroken until Mbonkwi crashed in the second goal at the far post from – need you ask – Remy’s lethal cross. And breathe…. Perez almost made it three from a tight angle after a one-two with Shiloh, and Simo also came close to another goal of his own.

Just before Simo’s goal, Dan Williams fashioned his own chance with good control in the Borough box, but smashed his shot wide. And in stoppage time a frantic few seconds, like a volleyball point at the net, saw the ball cleared from right under the crossbar by Vaughan. Just to seal that MoM…

Borough: Worgan; Vaughan, Barry, Mitchenson, Innocent; Perez, Hammond; Remy, Whelpdale (Mbonkwi 22), Gravata (Bull 87); Hutchinson (Ompreon 67). Unused subs: Verrall, Beaconsfield, Seymour, Pinto.
Referee: an untroubled afternoon for Conall Bartlett
Sponsors’ Man of the Match: James Vaughan
Website Star Man: Shiloh Remy
Referee: Conall Bartlett
Attendance 574

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