A physically powerful Wings side never allowed the Sports to find their rhythm or play their passing game. Falling behind after 18 minutes, and despite a sequence of tactical tweaks they could find no way through the home defence. The defeat is a huge set-back to Danny Bloor’s Sports, who must now win their final three National South games and hope that rivals slip up in the play-offs chase.
The manager and his staff faced a tricky pre-match decision with the withdrawal through illness of club captain Charlie Walker. Sometimes an unsung hero, Walker’s effectiveness in the number 10 role – behind the main striker – is crucial to Borough’s attacking play. Bloor has two alternatives in his squad, Chris Whelpdale and Greg Luer, but both are returning from injury – so the pivotal role was handed to Jamie Yila.
The powerful, athletic Yila can be a nightmare for opposing defenders, and he did make an impact, but he is not a pass-and-move number 10. Midway through the first half, he swapped roles with wide man Shiloh Remy, and for the final twenty minutes Bloor did introduce Whelpdale off the bench: a welcome sight for Borough supporters, although not quite enough to rescue the game.
But back to the start. Wings opened strongly, but then with three minutes played, Luke Pearce broke from half-way – timing his run perfectly to spring the Welling back line – but was maddeningly pulled back by an offside flag which the video later showed was incorrect. And during the first half, another two similar decisions curtailed Eastbourne attacks. What a difference a flag makes…
Just minutes later, Yila hit a cracking shot from 20 yards, pushed out by home keeper McKenzie-Lyle, but as Pearce followed in on the loose ball, the Offside Flag of Doom once again cut him short. The Sports were finding their rhythm, and full-backs Ryan Bartley and Kai Innocent both made impressive forays forward. Then from a slick left-flank move, Yila set up Leone Gravata for a golden chance just ten yards out. But the young striker blazed his shot high over the crossbar, when he might – as the great Jimmy Greaves used to say – have passed it into the net. Leone has been a huge Borough success story this season, and there is plenty more to come from the talented youngster.
A thickly-grassed playing surface also took the edge off slick attacking play – but it did not prevent Christie Pattison from opening the scoring on 18 minutes. Checking in from the right, he struck a left-footed rocket from 25 yards which curled beyond Lee Worgan’s stretching dive and inside the right-hand post. 1-0.
For a few minutes the Wings poured forward, and three decent Worgan saves were required simply to keep the Sports in the game. Weathering that little squall, Borough did then press forward again. Jaden Perez grazed the left-hand post with a low drive, and then a lovely curling Vaughan free-kick was excellently tipped from the top corner by the home keeper.
Still ahead at the break, Welling were in no mood to lose the three points which would effectively guarantee their National South status for another season. Managing the game – as the modern euphemism for time-wasting goes – they were taking the sting out of Eastbourne’s attacking play.
Early in the half, a smart low Perez drive clipped the right-hand post, but generally Welling were untroubled. Off the Borough bench came three substitutes: Jay Beckford for Gravata, Morgan Williams for Vaughan, and – a welcome sight – Whelpdale for his first competitive action since before Christmas.
Williams, who is really catching the eye, drew a splendid save from McKenzie-Lyle with a stunning curler of a free-kick, and Chris Whelpdale brought a new dimension of movement with the ball. As the minutes drained away, Borough tried everything, including the last-resort tactic of pushing centre-back Mitch Dickenson up front. But this was not a day for dramatic finales; only for dour defeat.
Three games to play, nine points to play for. Bloor’s men will go again, and you wouldn’t rule out three victories – but their play-off prospects will now depend on other clubs slipping up. Keep the faith.
Borough: Worgan; Bartley, Barry, Dickenson, Innocent; Vaughan (Williams 72), Perez; Remy, Yila (Whelpdale 69), Gravata (Beckford 65); Pearce. Unused subs: Wabo, Burchell.
Referee: Aaron Farmer Att: 469 Borough MoM: Brad Barry