Match Data 2003/2004
Eastbourne Borough 2
Dean Blake (O'Rourke, 67)
Bobby Howe (Ford, 50)
Smart (Myall, 87)
Pulman (Yates, 90)
Crabb (Rowland, 72)
Two minutes into last night’s game matters looked as though they were set to carry on from where they left off on Saturday. Bobby Howe was finding acres of space on the right wing, and when in receipt of a superb crossfield ball from Chukki Eribenne he slammed it back into the box where Stuart Tuck hurriedly sliced it away from Dave Town. On their own turf though, Eastbourne were not the timid defensive side the Hawks met at Westleigh Park in September. In immediate response, Danny Simmonds forced the first of many saves from Gareth Howells.
Daren Pearce then skewed a good chance wide with a poor header as the Sports took their second corner in the 8th minute. Another break for the Hawks saw Dean Blake use Town to bypass a defender before putting the ball out for another good cross from Howe. Fifteen minutes in though, the fast pace of the match began to tell on Howe and Eribenne, the pair still less than 100% fit. Chukki pulled up on a run and needed treatment off the pitch, returning in a less pacey role for the remainder of the game, and Howe appeared to be in some pain as his hard crosses turned into short chips. Blake tried to compensate with two good shots, one blocked and the other put out by Stuart Playford from a free kick.
In the 25th minute a hand ball from Jamie Campbell saw plenty of cries for a penalty, but the referee pointed for a free kick right on the edge of the area. Defending almost on the goal line, the Hawks managed to put Tuck’s shot round the post for another corner, cleared away by Geoff Pitcher.
Jim Rodwell then excellently dispossessed Ian Pulman as the Margate loan signing charged for the Hawks box, and Chris Ferrett cleared on the line with a header sent in from yet another Sports corner. Town broke away with the ball and Gary Connolly sent a cheeky chip through the defence to Blake, whose angled header almost beat goalkeeper Lee Hook at close range. The hosts though were becoming increasingly difficult to contain, and Howells did amazingly well when Scott Ramsay fed a pass to Matt Smart to pull off two acrobatic point blank saves.
The number of corners the hosts were winning added considerably to the sustained pressure they brought about toward the end of the half, and it was from the eighth and last of the half that they scored their opening goal. In the 43rd minute Simmonds swung a curve ball to the back post where Tuck head home depressingly unmarked.
The Hawks returned to the pitch fired up for an equaliser, and dominated the first fifteen minutes of the second half. Howe finally retired in the 50th minute and was replaced by Ford. In the 53rd minute Luke Byles unleashed a tremendous shot that clipped Ramsay as it head goalward and Hook pulled off an astonishing save to push the ball over the bar. Rodwell got a head to the resulting corner, but Hook collected it. The Hawks attacked predominately on the right wing again, Pitcher repeatedly putting perfectly weighted diagonal balls into the path of Connolly and Town, but the Sports kept a level head. Chances for Pulman and Ramsay kept the Hawks defence on their toes, until the 62nd minute when Campbell mis-controlled the ball on the halfway line allowing Simmonds to fire it quickly up the wing to Pulman. While the Hawks defence back-pedalled and tried to cover, Pulman ran in quickly, and slot the ball to Ramsay who turned it in from the six yard box.
It was a turning point in the match. The Hawks faded in the midfield from then on in, and chances for Pulman and Ramsay rapidly followed as the hosts re-asserted control. Despite the mistake, the Hawks defence did excellently in the following half hour to keep the hosts to two goals, and Pitcher came close to putting the visitors on the scoresheet when his 75th minute free kick curved round the wall to Hook.
Byles continued to show a marked upturn in form from his new midfield position, releasing another strike in the 82nd minute that forced a dive from Hook after Eribenne was muscled off the ball by no less than four Borough defenders. Substitute Jamie O’Rourke also came close when he sent a header inches over the bar. Moments later the nippy front runner was denied what looked a clear cut penalty when Darren Baker barged him away from a Ferrett cross with two hands.
By then though the Sports had already won the game, and the six point tussle on the edge of the promotion zone saw the victors leap from 13th to 6th place, while the Hawks must wait for Saturday’s game at Bath City for another chance to head back toward the top thirteen.