National South at its very best: Eastbourne Borough and Farnborough produced a high-paced and exciting contest at the Lane on Saturday, with the result in the balance until very late in the game.
Borough regulars are used to watching their team combat the elements as well as the opposition, and as kick-off approached, the weather gods had cranked up the wind machine. But this time, the gale did nothing to spoil the spectacle, and both teams played intelligently with the Force Eight in their faces as well as at their backs.
The Sports, opting to play with the wind, flooded forward from the first whistle and created three scoring chances in the first five minutes. Shiloh Remy cut in from the right, finding Luke Pearce whose shot was charged down before Shiloh himself fired ferociously into the arms of keeper Jack Turner. Then Shiloh played in Leone Gravata for a skidding cross-shot just beyond the back post. And from a curling Alfie Brendle free-kick, Charlie Walker’s header was saved by Turner.
When Gravata and Remy are on the ball, you can see the fear in defenders’ eyes, and their pace and movement from wide positions were once again exhilarating. But the double spearhead has now become a triple threat: after a couple of games to bed in, Luke Pearce has now become a centre-back’s nightmare with his timing, speed and close control.
And yet another four-figure crowd at the SO Legal Community Stadium was noisily enjoying the action. The visitors – who played throughout with enterprise and ambition – responded with an incisive move from a throw-in on the right, but Jordan Norville-Williams’ final shot was high and not too handsome.
Back came the Borough. Walker pounded on to a wind-assisted long ball, but he slightly ran out of angle and Turner made an excellent save. The Hampshire side had been almost entirely on the back foot, but as we reached the mid-point of the first half, they suddenly won three successive corners, all competently defended – and the Sports resumed the offensive.
Remy combined slickly on the left with Kai Innocent – who had a storming game from full-back – but the winger’s final shot curled too high. And from another free-kick by the impressive Bendle, Walker’s header zipped past the right post.
Despite reaching half-time goalless, the Sports had looked eager, inventive and well balanced. Bendle was admirably supported in midfield by the neat and alert work of Florian Kastrati. At right-back, Ryan Bartley plays beyond his years with sound positioning, strong tackling and intelligent support going forward. And the towering centre-back pair of Jack Burchell and Mitch Dickenson were literally error-free. With Mitch and Charlie Walker the only outfield players much beyond the twenty-year-old mark, this is probably Borough’s youngest ever first-team line-up.
But with youth comes pace, vigour, appetite and the sheer exhilaration of getting the ball at your feet. Keep this bunch injury-free; forgive them the occasional error; and watch them put opponents to the sword.
Certainly Priory Lane was loving it on Saturday – and even though the teams turned around goalless, with Farnborough now wind-assisted, there was a sense of confidence.
Indeed, it was the yellow shirts of the Other ‘Borough who were scrambling, as Pearce pounded on to Bartley’s super pass through the right channel, but this time the young Southampton loanee was too high with his explosive angled shot. But we did not have much longer to wait. From a throw-in in front of the dug-outs, Leone prodded a through ball to Shiloh, who scooped a wonderful pass to Luke, collected the return in his stride and flashed a low shot past Turner for 1-0.
Half an hour to defend the lead? Well yes, but even better to extend it. Following some vigorous but fruitless Farnborough pressure, Bartley fizzed a ball down the right touchline to the sprinting Remy, whose inch-perfect cross picked out Pearce for a triumphant finish for 2-0.
There were chances at both ends. Shiloh should really have made it three, pinging his shot too high after great groundwork by Walker and Pearce. Farnborough never gave up the chase, but Norville-Williams struck a direct free-kick too high, and then Jonathan Page broke from the right with one of those efforts that finishes either in the net or in the car park. And that, sadly, was the cue for their coach driver to get the engine started…
Borough: Worgan; Bartley, Burchell, Dickenson, Innocent; Kastrati, Bendle; Remy, Walker (Scarlett 81), Gravata; Pearce (Wabo 90+4). Unused subs: Holter, Bull, Beckford.
Referee: Farai Hallam – an interesting afternoon for one of the few officials who is also a former professional footballer, and looked to let the game flow!
Att: 1005 Borough Player of The Match:- Luke Pearce