National League South Sat 4 March SO Legal Community Stadium
Eastbourne Boro

Both sides had spells of dominance, trading chance for chance and goal for goal. The Sports actually trailed for only eleven minutes of the ninety, but the final result was probably about right – and the four-figure Priory Lane crowd had enjoyed a cracking afternoon’s entertainment.

In brief: 34mins – Chelmsford penalty, 0-1. 45mins – Milly Scarlett screamer, 1-1.  49mins – Luke Pearce exquisite finish, 2-1.  86mins – Michael Folivi close-range equaliser, 2-2.

The Clarets named several six-footers in their line-up, and proved a formidable physical unit, while Danny Bloor put faith in the pace and youth of the eleven who had seized victory at Taunton. A definite contrast of styles, but none the worse for that.

Early on, referee Lewis Sandoe seemed pretty light-touch on decisions – an approach that did the Sports no favours. Charlie Walker was tripped in the D with no foul awarded, and then Millie Scarlett appeared to be bulldozed to the ground by Jamie Yila, but no spot-kick was awarded. At the other end, Yila put a happier mark on the match with a skidding low diagonal shot which Worgan pushed away at full stretch.

But on balance it had been a promising, lively opening half-hour for the Sports, and Chelmsford were struggling to contain their pace and movement off the ball. Walker saw a 25-yarder veer off target, and Leone Gravata sped through midfield before pulling his shot wide. Then another, less convincing penalty claim: a little tug-back on Luke Pearce, which Mr Sandoe waved away. All the more ironic, then, when just past the half-hour the referee broke his duck at the opposite end…

Viewed frame by frame, the penalty award is hard to justify. Alfie Bendle had slid a slightly risky back-pass to Lee Worgan, and as the keeper played it sideways out of danger, Cameron Jones stepped across Lee, perhaps to block his path – and instantly crumpled to the ground. But referees make instant judgements, and this one went against the home side. One day, VAR will extend its reach to non-league…

Jones himself whacked in the spot kick, and the Clarets now had a crucial lead. But Borough had not been second best, and they flooded forward in response. Two or three half-chances later, and just moments before half-time, they equalised with a goal of astonishing quality which would have graced a Premier League stadium. Remy into Gravata in the left channel. Gravata pass-and-move to collect Kai Innocent’s return ball up to the corner flag. Leone back to Shiloh and then to Kai, whose wonderful towering cross was smashed home on the volley by Millie Scarlett arriving at the back post. 1-1.

Alfie Bendle almost sent Borough in with a half-time lead, scorching a shot from well outside the box which left keeper Ed Beach flailing and took a coat of paint off the crossbar.

Soon after the break, it got even better – not this time with a Bendle shot but a sublime Bendle pass, setting Leone free up the left. Two touches, into the box, and a perfect lay-off for Pearce, who – in a box full of defenders and with just a yard or so to aim for at the back post – curled a lovely finish past a full-stretch Beach. 2-1.

It might have got even better. Charlie Walker struck a fierce free-kick into the wall and from the rebound Shiloh lashed a high and wide effort which, to borrow a phrase from his Dad’s chosen sport, did not trouble the scorers…  Then Walker himself drew the save of the match from Beach, who needed a reaction time of about 0.4 seconds to parry away the Borough skipper’s angled shot.

The Clarets game-plan might not have reckoned with finishing like this from Borough. Now, for the first time, they were behind – and they responded strongly. Manager Robbie Simpson threw on sub after giant sub, and cranked up the pressure. But still it was Eastbourne who were prising their opponents apart, Pearce cutting in from the left but shooting at the keeper – and then Gravata, powering through inside-left to draw a fine save by Beach at the foot of the post – and this just after Leone had prevented a Clarets equaliser with an alert intervention at the other end.

The clock was running down – but Chelmsford were still battling and believing. With just four minutes left, Borough could not quite clear a City attack, and a recycled cross from the left was nodded in by substitute Michael Folivi for 2-2. And so the action ended.

Positives all over the place: great to see the influential Brad Barry back alongside the towering (in every sense) Jack Burchell, another impressive hour from young Jay Beckford, and several MoM candidates including Scarlett, Innocent and Pearce – and Leone Gravata especially catching the eye with his all-action front-and-back performance.

Borough: Worgan; Burchell, Barry, Innocent; Scarlett (Bartley 74), Bendle, Remy (Kastrati 79), Beckford (Perez 69), Gravata; Walker; Pearce.      Unused subs: Wabo, Holter. 

Referee: Lewis Sandoe     Att: 1023

Sponsors Player of the Match:- Luke Pearce