Eastbourne Borough overcame strong opposition and dreadful playing conditions to bring home a point from Hampshire on Tuesday night, after a goalless draw at Farnborough.
Manager Danny Bloor found plenty to be pleased with. “Very happy with the second clean sheet in a row – after we couldn’t keep one for so long. Farnborough are a really good side and we all know about their FA Cup exploits. To come here on a bitterly cold, wet, windy Tuesday night when I felt the pitch was unplayable, and with our reserve keeper in goal – really pleasing. It wasn’t the greatest game, let’s not kid ourselves, and if there had been a goal it would probably have come from a slip of some sort. But it’s another point on the board!”
His assistant Ben Austin echoed that view. “You want to win every game, but on a night like this we will settle for the point. Difficult conditions, not conducive to the sort of football we want to play, and the pitch was cutting up all the time as it progressed. Both teams had chances, but we defended really well.”
Referee Andrew Humphries had passed the surface fit just an hour before kick-off, but it was a close call under the Cherrywood Road floodlights. Within minutes of the start, a green and shimmering surface was showing gouges and skid-lines – and we realised that some of the shimmer was actually from puddles and surface water.
Proceed with caution? In fairness, both teams gave it a go. Farnborough took the early initiative, with a corner and a couple of free-kicks, but Seymour was untroubled, and his reactions, command and handling all night were admirable. His back line of Barry, Wynter, Dickenson and Innocent dealt well with the early waves of attack, and the Sports went up through the gears.
Around the quarter-hour, Shiloh Remy combined well first with Leone Gravata and then with Charlie Walker, and then a Dickenson header from Leone’s assist was well saved at the left post by Farnborough’s Jack Turner.
Shiloh, indeed, was giving Farnborough some serious headaches – including a fizzing angled shot that was just too high – and Jonathon Page copped the first yellow of the night for chopping him down.
Farnborough responded with a 25-yard free-kick from which Seymour smartly saved Jack Ball’s header, and the Sports were growing wise to the home side’s other weapon, the long throws of Jordan Norville-Williams.
Half an hour played, then, and we were starting to realise that, if and when a goal came, it was as likely to be through a slip, or a pass skimming across water or sticking in a puddle, as through any moment of brilliance. Borough’s first corner – from a lovely sweeping move – brought another Dickenson header, this time just wide, while at the other end Seymour beat away a shot from Page.
Then Farnborough earned another yellow card, this time for a spoiling foul on Gravata, and before you could say cold-wet-and-miserable, it was time for a half-time cuppa.
The second half did open brightly, and Seymour needed to be alert to stop Page’s swerving shot from the edge of the box. It triggered a good spell of pressure from the Hampshire side, urged on by a noisy and seriously one-eyed element in the crowd at Seymour’s end, who appealed raucously for every decision. Thankfully, Mr Humphries remained unswayed rather than unnerved.
The Sports were equally resolute, breaking out to earn two corners on the right, but both were fruitless. With Greg Luer replacing the hard-working Walker, it was really all about hitting Farnborough on the break – but that was easier said than done. The yellow shirts piled on the pressure, with one header cleared off the goal-line and two more assured saves by Seymour.
We had passed the seventy-minute mark now. Who had the guile or the stamina to turn stalemate into victory? Farnborough copped two more yellows, one for feigning a foul in the box and one for (once again) fouling the livewire Gravata. But yellows would shortly come back to bite the Borough…
There was time for James Hammond to replace Jaden Perez and for youth team striker Fletcher Holman to make a brief first-team debut – and for the Sports to come literally within inches of a winner, with Hammond’s effort hacked desperately off the goal-line.
But this one would go to the wire, and James Vaughan – Borough’s driving midfield force – suffered the tough justice of two yellow cards within eight minutes, and so a dismissal. But a red card would not defeat the men in red, and his ten teammates held firm for the point they had earned.
Borough: Seymour; Barry, Wynter, Dickenson, Innocent; Vaughan, Perez (Hammond 76); Remy (Holman 85), Walker (Luer 69), Gravata; Hutchinson. Unused subs: Holter, Scarlett
Referee: Andrew Humphries Att: 479
Borough MoM: Taylor Seymour. Fantastic performance in very difficult conditions.