Sensational keeping by young Jack Bycroft helped Taunton to snatch the points from an Eastbourne Borough side who dominated but could not quite finish – or at least could not find a way past the Peacocks’ young keeper..
Taunton’s three goals, in fact, came from just four efforts on target, including the penalty that broke the deadlock early in the second half. By contrast, the Sports had much more of the ball, but nothing to show for it.
The Sports opened strongly and Leone Gravata and Kai Innocent often looked a threat on the Borough left flank. A fizzing cross from Leone almost squirmed from the grasp of Taunton keeper Jack Bycroft – who would later conjure two brilliant saves and several merely excellent ones. Another four-figure crowd at the SO Legal Community Stadium was enjoying the action – and probably starting to think in terms of a home breakthrough.
But a busy, organised Peacocks side were closing down effectively – and on 19 minutes they created their first real chance, Ross Stearn drawing a fine sprawling save from Lee Worgan with a scorching 20-yarder.
The Sports almost broke the deadlock on 34 minutes with another sublime left-wing move, but brave young Bycroft stretched to deny Luke Pearce’s quickfire finish: a nice little piece of football irony, for the two are actually teammates, and best of mates, at their parent club Southampton FC! And right on half-time he defiantly kept out a Mitch Dickenson header.
The visitors seized the lead on 50 minutes with a Stearn penalty, awarded for a pretty soft handball on the edge of the Borough box: Ross Stearn himself had hammered the ball at Kai Innocent from barely two yards.
Aggrieved, Eastbourne bounced back brightly, and Walker missed a great chance to equalise, streaking away on to Ryan Bartley’s long pass but firing wide. Bartley, on loan from Palace and starting in National South for the first time, had impressed in the Sports back line.
Shiloh Remy was using all his close-control skills to prise open the visitors’ defence, but the nearest he came was a fizzing shot into the side netting, as the Sports strove to find a way back into the game. But on 72 minutes Town doubled the lead with a sweet shimmy and shot by Dylan Morgan into the top right corner.
Then on 78 minutes the Peacocks made it four shots, three goals, Stearn finishing a move from close range. And from then, there was simply no breaching of the Taunton fortress – with Bycroft king of the castle.
Eastbourne Borough (4-2-3-1): Worgan; Bartley, Burchell, Dickenson, Innocent (Wabo 79); Hammond (Perez 75), Bendle; Remy, Walker, Gravata; Pearce Unused subs: Holman, Holter, Pollitt
Referee: Rob Claussen
Player of the Match Chosen by Our Match Sponsor, Friends of Eastbourne Hospital: Leone Gravata