EASTBOURNE BOROUGH – 3 [Harding 29. Armstrong 31. Smart 71]
SUTTON UNITED – 0
At last, the league have seen sense and given us a Saturday trip to Eastbourne again after lumbering us with two midweek trips down in the last couple of seasons. Which was annoying as it’s certainly one of my favourite away trips of the ‘Conf South’ era so far.
We’ve had some memorable trips down here, starting with the stupidly drunk friendly 5 years ago which ended with lost glasses on the beach in the pitch black, lost glasses found on said beach in the pitch black and certain people clambering about on hotel roofs at some daft hour, to the epic ‘Vaggy’ cup tie, Dom O’Shea’s last minute leveller and to the trip 2 seasons back early in the Ian Hazel reign where we went down mob handed on a Tuesday night and sang the place down.
Now, with Hazel gone and the U’s once more in the shit, travelling to a high flying Eastbourne side, we could do with a repeat of that particular showing today from the terraces. But somehow, I doubt it. There’s already an air about us that we could be fighting a losing battle already.
The trip itself is a little crap to start with, what with the trains being shafted between Haywards Heath and Lewes, which means no beer train and no warm up vodka jelly. Plus with Windy away at the Supporters Direct AGM, we’re a little short handed when we head down in Chalmers motor.
The journey down is frustrating, as PC elects to go the more ‘direct route’ and ignore Greeks sat nav, which suggests the more obvious A23/M23 type route. “I hate sat navs!” declares our chauffeur. “I prefer Paul-nav!”. Naturally, 45 minutes later, we’re sat on the fucking A22, not going anywhere very fast. Which naturally brings mocking repeats of the earlier ‘Paul-nav’ boasts from myself and Greek. Give me Tom Tom any day. Can’t see Halfords shifting too many units of it’s scruffy haired competitor somehow.
We eventually roll up in town a disgraceful 30 minutes after opening time and set about parking up, dumping gear and most importantly of all, getting into the pub. But we’re further delayed when 24 year old Mrs C is asked for ID by a spotty 18 year old behind the bar in the Terminus and refuses to serve her when she is unable to produce any.
Oh fuck this, lets stop pissing about and hit the Wetherspoons.
Couple of beers and some scoff later, the other half turns up and it’s a quick trip to the B&B to dump her bags. On the way, we bump into Windy, now heading pubwards after an early morning flight down from Manchester. “It’s that way mate. And mines a pint”
We’re not back long before the time arrives to get set for the ground. We wander off cab rank-wards and only have to go as far as the bank on the corner when we spy some available transport just sat there waiting, it’s driver getting some wonga out of the ATM. Eastbourne Borough football club please kind sir!
In the bar, it’s back on the beer, trying to make up for the precious pre-match drinking time that the technological wonder called ‘Paul-nav’ has cost us earlier on. And we don’t do badly, finishing up at 2 minutes to 3 with a cheeky short, before darting out to the turnstiles and strolling through just as the sides roll out of the tunnel. Now that my friends, is proper awayday drinking!
The side has only one real change from last weeks improved showing up the road in Lewes, with AJ dropping to the bench to be replaced at full back by Tanner and Quinton returns to midfield after missing out cup tied last time out. Oh well, here we go. Unsurprisingly, the home side go close early on. A ball over the top and Scarborough slips as he turns allowing their man a free run on goal down the right. But the shot from his low centre across the box is thabnkfully blocked by covering defenders at the expense of a corner.
Already, away to my left, the one thing I dislike about Eastbourne, their fucking drummers, are setting about giving me a migrane. Hilariously, they break into a rendition of “No one likes us” all the while, thumping away like 4 year olds at a Fisher Price testing session. Hmmmm. I wonder why eh lads? This isn’t the Maracana and that is no hip shaking samba beat you’re knocking out there…
Henry is looking lively and seems to be taking to his more attacking midfield type position. And on 7 mins scampers onto a ball down the left, before cutting back and clipping a nice cross into the box, but it’s just a fraction too high for Watkins arriving in the middle and carries to the far side before being cleared.
10 minutes in and we really should have a penalty. A hard won corner is put in from the right, but Scarborough is prevented from jumping for it in the centre as a defender clambers all over him. The slightly myopic ref, who’s already booked Greene for pretty much feck all waves away loud appeals. A follow up shot from the resulting loose ball is then blocked by the ‘keepers legs and the danger cleared. Another corner a couple minutes later causes problems again, this time Gonsalves gets up highest, but he can’t get a good enough contact onto the ball and his header drifts wide of the far post.
Eastbourne seem to have thought we’d be a bit of a pushover and are barely making any impact on the game, while we surprisingly boss things. Mostly thanks to our midfield and the darting runs of Henry. He turns well in the centre after 18 mins and pushes a little pass through the defence for Watkins, but a desperate last ditch challenge just nicks the ball off his toe as he goes to shoot. The ref and lino then further endear themselves to us behind the goal by awarding a goal kick!
We keep going though and really should be in front around 25 mins in. Again Henry is involved, slipping a ball out right for McBean in behind the full back. He gets down to the byeline and knocks a low ball across teasingly a couple of yards out, but Watkins sliding in can’t quite make a good enough contact to divert the ball into the bet and instead it skims off his studs and out for a goal kick.
That, ladies and gentleman, is what we commonly call a sitter.
Naturally, as is our way this season, having pretty much dominated proceedings and made high flying oppo look a bit pony, we go and find ourselves 1 down thanks to practically their first attack.
A ball down the right after 29 mins and the Eastbourne man gets in goalside of the defender. He has a free run to the byeline where, unchallenged, he has all bloody day to pick out a colleague in the box. He helps the ball on one more to the far post where a red shirt stands in acres of space and only Wilson between him and the target. Phil does superbly well and spreads himself to make a superb block from the first effort, but the defence reacts too slowly and matey takes his second chance, poking the ball back into the net.
Is it just me, or is anyone else getting a bit dose of deja-fucking-vu right about now?
“Still…..” we think “….we’ve played well so far, we’re not out of this yet!”. Oooops. Wrong.
Within a couple of minutes, the lead is doubled. We fail to mark up from a throw in on the left and a simple pass is played inside for a man in way way too much space again to pick his spot beyond the dive of Wilson and into the far corner. 2-0. For fucks sake. Now, I wouldn’t mind if we were actually playing like the worst side ever seen by human kind and getting battered. At least it’d be easier to stomach than watching us boss a supposedly superior side, only to see the bastards score with their first half chances of the match.
Still though, we keep plodding on and continue to look by far the better of the sides as we approach half time. Anyone would think we’re the side up near the top rather than them. But those feelings that we’re currently harbouring that it’s once again not going to be our day are pretty much confirmed 7 minutes before the break. Another right sided corner causes problems and is weakly nodded away to the edge of the box. Henry picks it up and cracks a shot through the crowd, only to see is rattle back off the left hand upright. Jesus christ. Just when exactly are we going to catch a frigging break this season? When?
Anyone got a towel? Chuck it in will you, at least we’ll get 45 mins extra in the bar.
Despite our attempts to raise spirits as the lads trudge down the tunnel at the break, heads are clearly down. Like us, they’re probably wondering just when things might start to go our way. I for one certainly don’t envy Mr Massey in trying to raise that lot for the second half. But, raise them he does. And from the restart, we basically pin back the hosts with a flurry of attacks. A couple of minutes into the second half, Hudson gets down the right and delivers a good early low cross into the box. It just evades Watkins at the near post and the ‘keeper reads it well enough to pounce on the ball just as McBean arrives behind his strike partner.
On 51 mins, Henry breaks from halfway and races down the left, cuts in and Hook in the Eastbourne goal has to get down full stretch to keep out his low angled shot one handed. A minute later and McBean weaves his way down the same flank, skipping into the box, but the ball is just touched off his foot as he goes to shoot and his only reward is a corner. Another minute after that and we go even closer, Watkins gets free down the right and picks out McBean in the centre. His header leaves the ‘keeper completely stranded but comes back off the crossbar and is hacked clear.
Having weathered the early storm, the home side manage to steady the ship a little afterwards and our pressure wanes somewhat. They create the next chance just after the hour, a quick break down the right and the attacker takes advantage of a slip by Hudson to square the ball towards the far post for a team mate. But again, it’s Wilson to the rescue and the U’s stopper spreads himself superbly to block the 1 on 1.
Unfortunately though, despite having much of the ball from here, the hosts finally make their points safe with a suitably shambolic goal with 20 minutes left to play. Another attack down our right opens up the defence and the ball is pulled back towards the centre of goal. The initial close range effort is blocked by a defender, the second by Wilson, but again the ball rebounds to the attacker and he eventually bundles it over the line.
If that wasn’t bad enough, our misery is complete only 3 minutes later. McBean makes a superb burst down the right and cuts in along the byeline, only to be felled from behind by a clumsy challenge. Even the pedantic sod we’ve had reffing today can’t ignore this one and promptly points to the spot.
So, is this a consolation for us, or the start of a never to be forgotten fightback we think? Neither as it happens. Tanner takes responsibility and hits his kick down the middle, a tad too close to the ‘keeper and his outstretched hand bats it away and the loose ball is cleared for a corner by a defender.
For. fucks. sake.
Our annoyance is somewhat further aggravated by the bunch of little chavs who’ve thought it highly amusing to pop round and piss people off for the pen. Naturally they scarper when they realise that sticking around to further taunt some now seriously miffed visitors probably isn’t a good idea. As they disappear off back whence they came, I notice they’ve had to walk past a steward to get behind our goal.
As much to stop any of our lot getting into trouble for delivering a well deserved clip round the ear than to prevent any injury to the little scrotes, I pop down and kindly request matey in the dayglo jacket does his fucking job. Albeit a little more politely than that. Although given his “So what”shrug of the shoulders, I wish I hadn’t.
The penalty miss seems to finally knock any remaining fight out of the side and the final 15 minutes or so are pretty much a non-event.
Disappointingly at the final whistle, the side disappears down the tunnel without so much as a wave to the far end despite some solid backing all afternoon. No no lads, all about you. Only the familiar figures of Scooby, Tanner and Wilson bothering with any sort of acknowledgement. Right, back into the bar I think. I need a drink.
Noticing that the twats with the drums are still in place as we amble round, I take the chance of the exit on the corner to find my way out through the car park, just in case any of them manages to cut me with their razor sharp wit as we walk past. I’m not sure any response would be either charitable of suitable before the watershed.
It’s pretty sombre amongst the gang in the bar and a couple of drinks does little to raise spirits, as do the regular visits from well meaning locals commiserating with us over the result despite our performance. Because no matter how gracious it’s meant to be, there’s nowt worse than standing in an oppo bar after getting comfortably beat and being told “You’re the best side we’ve seen down here by a mile” when you’re properly in the mire. It’s even worse when it’s happening with unerring regularity.
In the end, we cab it back to the B&B for a quick change before hitting town for dinner and to watch the Rugby final on the telly. Whilst we change, Greek inadvertently lifts the mood when he discovers that the pair of ‘smart’ shoes he’s brought for the inevitable clubbing trip later tonight are actually from different pairs. And both for left feet! Still, we found it funny anyway. There may or may not have been jokes about some of our players being similarly afflicted this season. On several occasions.
In the end, the fat bloke has to make do with my vaguely smart-looking-if-it’s-quite-dark walking boots I’d been wearing that afternoon. Simply as they’re the only thing close to suitable that we can muster and they actually fit!
We try the Terminus again, despite Kelly’s refusal earlier on and grab a pint before heading next door for some scoff. Greek ensures that we retain a decent table for the egg chasing shortly after by chucking Welshman Nick a few quid for a couple of beer so he can act as our ‘marker’.
Food service is somewhat slow and Chalmers and I eventually wander back in several minutes into the game. Naturally, given that we’re really not having a great time as spectators this season, the Saffa’s proceed to nick our trophy with a display of dull workmanlike rugby so effective, they wouldn’t have looked out of place wearing white shirts with a red rose on them. Still, at least the missus is happy. Bloody colonials.
Drinking naturally gets silly afterwards, with god knows what being necked before we head into Kings, the cheesy night club round the corner. Here, in the wee hours of Sunday morning I find myself having a somewhat pissed, yet heartfelt chat with our skipper, Mr John Scarborough on what exactly has gone awry this season. The poor bastard. First he has to play in that crap and then he has to put up with my dribbling on him about it.
Fuck me, us crazy guys suuuure knows how to party!
MoM : Jason Henry. Excellent performance. Have we finally found a position that suits him?
TEAM : Wilson, Hudson, Scarborough, Gonsalves, Alimi, Quinton, Greene, Watkins, McBean, Tanner, Henry. SUBS : Goodchild, Bray, Williams, Hammond, Honey