It was a tough Good Friday for Eastbourne Borough at Priory Lane, with three goals in the last five minutes giving Maidstone a flattering victory over their nine-men hosts.

The Sports were well in the game at 2-1 down but after having Sam Beard and then Pierce Bird sent off as a result of some contentious decisions, they played over 35 minutes with nine men.

And despite their brave efforts, Lamar Reynolds’ late hat-trick saw the Stones win 5-1 in front of a bumper crowd.

The Sports implemented two changes to the team that drew at Slough last week with Freddie Carter and Sam Beard replacing Moussa Diarra and David Sesay, who both found themselves on the bench.

The game commenced with Borough producing a promising start in the first half. Alfie Bendle’s timely block denied a dangerous cross from Chi Ezennolm. However, Maidstone seized an early advantage when a corner delivered by their captain, Sam Corne, led to Decarrey Sheriff being judged to have committed a foul in the box, resulting in a penalty. Corne sent keeper, Harrison Foulkes, the wrong way from the spot, giving Maidstone a 1-0 lead in the 7th minute.

Despite Maidstone’s early opener, Borough applied pressure, with Yahya Bamba delivering an appealing cross to Sheriff, whose subsequent shot narrowly missed the front post.

Borough’s defence held firm as Maidstone pressed for opportunities. A free kick from Corne was blocked at the edge of the box by the Sports and Jephte Tanga missed a shot on the right-hand side, after good work from Ezennolim down the left.

However, Borough’s fortunes took a turn for the worse when Beard received two yellow cards within moments of each other in the 26th minute, reducing Borough to ten men.

With Borough making a tactical substitution as David Sesay replaced Bendle, the Sports continued to press forward and deservedly drew level when Pierce Bird unleashed a stunning strike, firing the ball through a crowded area into the top left-hand corner from just inside the box.

As the first half drew to a close, both teams sought a decisive goal, but Carter’s intervention denied Corne’s attempt, leaving the score level at halftime.

Into the second half, Maidstone missed opportunities, as Faal hit the ball just wide of the bottom right-hand corner and a cross by Jephte Tanga was saved by Foulkes.

At this stage the Sports were well in the game, and at times looked the better side despite being a man down. However, their hopes were dealt a severe blow when Bird was shown a red card in the 53rd minute for a challenge on Tanga, further reducing the Sports to 9 men.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, Borough continued to battle, with Moussa Diarra replacing Matt Green in a tactical substitution.

A corner from Bamba was cleared away, and Tanga looked to break – but a great covering challenge from Jack Clarke dispossessed him.

But Borough’s defence was breached just after the hour mark. Enzennolim managed to deliver a cross into the box that is initially deflected by the Sports, only for Matt Rush to capitalize on the loose ball and slot it past Foulkes into the net.

After substitutions from Maidstone, Sesay found the feet of Sheriff inside the area but keeper, Lucas Covolan, denied the chance for Borough.

With the Sports looking to get forwards with the score at 2-1 as the game hit 85 minutes, they were dealt a sucker punch.

Ezennolim got down the left once more and pulled it back into the middle where Reynolds was waiting to smash a fine finish past Foulkes. And then in stoppage time, Reynolds scored with another fine finish. This time he let fly from 25 yards and it flew into the top left corner of the net.

Moments later, Tanga was fouled in the box. Up stepped substitute Reynolds who completed his hat-trick by crashing the resultant penalty in off the bar.

An unfortunate end to a positive performance from Borough, who deserved so much more.

Report by Maisie Gibbs