New owner Simon Leslie has swept all before him in the Priory Lane revolution with a new squad and management, a fresh look to the ground, the playing strip and even the badge. And a radically changed set of attitudes and ambitions.
“I never look at the league tables!” Not, in fairness, the words of Borough’s Mark Beard, but they are rarely far from the lips of football managers – sometimes with a little proviso such as “until October” or “for the first twelve games”. And this new Eastbourne side will not be judged until next April.
The Sports have just the opening day victory over Hampton and Richmond, plus a point on the road at Farnborough, to show for their early endeavours. Defeat at Aveley was followed by a maddening 2-1 reverse last Saturday at the Lane – visitors Bath City hanging on despite a late Borough onslaught.
And although those league points went west, the performance was far from a write-off. A curious game swayed back and forth with plenty of excitement for the 1,250 home crowd. Eastbourne slipped behind midway through the first period, when Beard’s son Sam – brought in on loan from Barnet – was caught in possession and Jordan Thomas raced away to score.
Bath were 2-0 up at the break through a stoppage-time penalty after a tangle of legs, prompting Mark Beard – who is clearly a thinking, pro-active manager – into a triple change. Two substitutions were intended, but Borough were forced into a third more sudden change as defender Freddie Carter felt unwell at the very end of half-time.
And before the hour mark, a limping Shiloh Remy was forced off, to leave the Sports with ten men. They rose splendidly to the challenge, a super flying header by De-Carry Sheriff halving the deficit – and the Romans’ defensive wall was under siege.
Jack Clarke – Borough’s own Jack Grealish down to the swerving hips and the stylish quiff – was too high with a header from Leone Gravata’s missile of a cross. And deep into stoppage time home keeper Ben Dudzinski, up for a final corner, saw his arrow of a shot turned breathlessly round the post by opposite number Ollie Wright.
So how about that nineteenth place? In fact, Eastbourne are just one win off the play-off places! And a mere five points behind leaders Worthing, whose own colours were lowered by surprise package Aveley.
All managers, just like Beard, are getting the measure of opposition and soaking up every result and every bit of data. Interestingly, the Sports’ match at Aveley was watched by a whole gallery of managers including Danny Bloor, Dorking’s Marc White, and even the once-and-future Steve King.
In football, it is tempting but misleading to think that you are only as good as your last result. The truth is that you are as good as your next performance. On Saturday the Sports will look to prove that maxim when Truro City arrive at the Lane.
The Cornishmen squeezed into National South in the very last minute of their promotion play-off final, but they have only an opening-day victory over Bloor’s Welling United to show so far.
Borough are playing high-tempo, inventive football, and it really does feel as though a big victory is imminent. Each National South fixture is different, and Beard then takes his squad to face another challenge at Chelmsford City on Bank Holiday Monday.
The Essex club take no prisoners at their Melbourne Stadium – affectionately known as the Gulag, with its clanking metal stands and fences. But if they play to their potential, Borough really can unlock three more points.