National League South Tue 22 November Vauxhall Road
Hemel Hempstead
Eastbourne Boro

A chilly night in deepest Hertfordshire: barely 72 hours after Borough’s successful but draining FA Trophy trip to Ebbsfleet, the unrelenting, unforgiving National South schedule took the Sports on an M25 trek to Hemel Hempstead Town.

Danny Bloor, managing his playing resources carefully, replaced the injured Alex Wynter with Jack Burchell – who responded with an outstanding game at the heart of defence – and rotating Shiloh Remy and James Vaughan for Chris Whelpdale and Greg Luer. But the spirit of the Sports was unchanged…

In truth, Borough began on the back foot, in the face of some rippling Hemel attacks. A Castiglioni effort earned the home side an early corner, and then Lee Worgan produced a fine save from a Brooklyn Ilunga strike. And for a long spell, the Tudors’ pressing tactics were denying Borough any foothold into the game.

And on the half-hour Hemel were ahead. Dara Dada, who may sound like a Modernist painter but who is a dazzling artist on the ball, struck an absolute beauty across Worgan and just inside the right hand post for 1-0.

But Eastbourne didn’t buckle. Instead they responded with a flurry of corners just before half time – one of them drawing a heroic header off the line by Josh Castiglione. No further goals, though, before the break, and all to play for in the second half….

The Sports had to raise their game and – with some stinging dressing-room words from their manager – they opened with fresh energy after the break. And in just four minutes they were rewarded: Jack Burchell’s long cross found Jake Hutchinson, who buried his header with the flourish of a striker in form.

The little clutch of Borough loyalists – are there any more devoted fans in this division? – now had something to shout about. Milly Scarlett replaced the injured Brad Barry, but the team’s new-found dominance was unchanged. The Tudors did get sight of goal just after the hour mark, Luke Holness getting his header all wrong from Andrew Eleftheriou’s cross, but otherwise Borough were standing firm.

69 minutes: time for another goal, and Hutch obliged – pouncing on an awful misjudgement by Hemel defender Harris O’Connor. With Charlie Walker standing possibly offside but uninvolved in the move, Shiloh played in Hutch for a triumphant finish: 2-1.

With more than 20 minutes still to play, it was time for strong nerves and deep defence. Whelpdale and Luer replaced Walker and Remy, and with stoppage time looming, Leone Gravata almost made it 3-1 but keeper Craig King denied him. It didn’t matter. The bitter November night had grown sweeter by the minute, and the Sports drove home happy.

Borough manager Danny Bloor gave an honest summary: “Give credit where it’s due, and Hemel are a really good side, and let’s not beat about the bush, we were not good enough in the first half. I actually lost my temper – for the first time in ages – at half-time, and I was much more pleased with our second-half display. That man Hutch with two goals, and I have to mention Jack Burchell, who came in for Alex Wynter and was absolutely outstanding – a real find for us. Strength in depth is the key to our continued success!”

Borough: Worgan; Barry (Scarlett 51), Burchell, Dickenson, Innocent; Hammond, Vaughan; Remy (Luer 85), Walker (Whelpdale 76), Gravata; Hutchinson. Unused subs: Perez, Holter.

Att: 288 Borough MoM: Jack Burchell – a terrific full debut for the centre-back