Borough claimed all three points on the opening day, with a tight single-goal victory over Hampton and Richmond in a thrilling encounter full of pace and creative football. But then two tough away games have yielded just one point – a draw at Farnborough followed by defeat on Monday night at newly promoted Aveley.
Saturday’s trip to Farnborough brought a quite physical challenge – from opponents full of experience at Step Two level, whereas Mark’s squad, though full of skill and pace, contains only three or four really seasoned professionals. Falling behind on the stroke of half-time, Borough certainly kept battling. Stefan Vukoje slotted in an equaliser, and the final result was a fair reflection of the action.
Manager Mark Beard summed it up: “You always begin a match looking for all three points, but on the balance of play the draw was probably about right. We knew Farnborough’s strengths, and that the set-pieces and long throws would be their biggest threat – it was like the Alamo at times! They were flinging everything in at us, and we defended for our lives. Disappointed to concede from a corner, but we got back in the game.
“We are a young team and we might have folded, but we didn’t. We kept our nerve and got back in the game, and I’m really pleased with that.”
The other figure at the very centre of the action was referee Rob Ablitt. Following the new code of directives, Rob dished out no fewer than eight yellow cards, five of them before half-time, and it was touch and go whether the game would finish with 22 players.
And in a contest that was robust but never ugly, the most improbable of the cautions came when Borough keeper Ben Dudzinski copped a yellow for time-wasting – with a mere 35 minutes of the first half played! Manager Beard – who actually cuts a mature and undramatic figure on the touchline – courteously questioned the decision, and earned himself a caution for good measure.
The intentions from the footballing authorities are positive and sensible – but on this evidence, they risk removing the referees’ discretion and judgement.
But on to Monday night in Essex, and a display that proved disappointing. A goal in each half was enough for Aveley to claim the three points.
“We were up against a club on the rise after two promotions. They were well organised and I did warn the boys that we’d need to be on our game. We looked after the ball well enough, but you don’t get any goals or points for simply keeping possession. As at Farnborough, we conceded just before half-time, and then in the second half we didn’t do enough in the final third. There are things to work on.”
There is plenty more to come from this eager and talented Sports squad – including hopefully a bag of goals. With three games played and forty-three to go, the National South table has scarcely taken shape – and Saturday’s visitors, Bath City, have enjoyed a pretty bizarre start to the campaign.
The Romans lie level with Borough in mid-table, on four points. But while the watchers of Mark Beard’s side have seen just five goals in three matches, Bath’s three games have produced seventeen! The West Country club opened with a 3-3 draw at Dartford, then trounced Maidstone United 3-0, and in midweek suffered a remarkable 2-6 home defeat at Twerton Park, against Somerset rivals Weston-super-Mare.
Beard and his staff will have done their usual meticulous homework on the visitors, and he will stay with his policy of selecting an eleven – and a team shape – to win this specific match. On Monday night he set up without Borough’s two most experienced defenders, Brad Barry and Alex Finney – but Dan Quick has looked more than competent at the heart of defence, and there should really have been enough perpetual-motion energy to stretch the Essex side.
Never mind: with another enthusiastic home crowd – and with the expected bright and calm summer weather arriving in time for Airbourne – Beard’s own Red Arrows should have more than enough fire-power to breach the Roman Wall. The Priory Lane action starts at 3.00pm.