Eastbourne Borough 2 Harriers 3
Venue: Priory Lane
away fans: 150
Oh we do like to be beside the seaside
The Harriers crept closer to the top of the League with this excellent away win at Eastbourne but still couldn't close the gap between ourselves and Crawley after they too won at home to Kettering.
'New' signing Neil Mackenzie was on the bench after he joined us on loan from Notts County yesterday and also keeping him company there was Dean Bennett after he had failed to make the cut for the previous two games. Mark Yates chose to go with the same starting eleven again and that's no bad thing for team confidence.
In glorious sunshine for the second weekend in a row (there is something to be said for the South then) the Harriers kicked off and straight away they went onto the offensive with Martin Brittain supplying a cross for Matt Barnes-Homer to get on the end of. The Harriers number nine didn't quite get his header right though and it went well wide of the target.
Paul Armstrong responded for the hosts two minutes later when his free kick flashed past Adam Bartlett's left hand post but it wasn't long before Justin Richards opened the scoring for us.
MBH passed the ball for Brian Smikle to square the ball to the waiting Richards who made no mistake in rifling it past keeper Lee Hook in the Eastbourne goal. The goal brought his tally to eight for the season so far and also put him at the top of the scoring charts.
Russ Penn should have doubled the lead almost from the re-start when Richards played him through but at the last minute he tried too hard to place it and could only side foot around the keeper and also outside the post.
The Harriers were now in full command of the game and Eastbourne didn't seem to know what to do next against a team on top of their game. It would only be a matter of time before we doubled our lead and that came in the 37th minute of the game.
Again Richards was the architect of the move when he surged forwards with the ball before sending it out to the right wing for Brittain to send in a pin-point cross for Brian Smikle to get his head to and bury in the back of the net. It was basically a repeat of his goal against York City in midweek.
With the Harriers comfortably in front it was time for the referee to blow for half time and the Reds to go into the break in a commanding position.
HT: 0 - 2
It was going to be a foregone conclusion that the hosts would come back at us in the second half and so it proved. The Harriers didn't help matters by seeming a bit hesitant and inviting Eastbourne onto them.
Richards had a chance to score early on but failed to control the ball enough and then Russ Penn sent a shot just wide. Eastbourne replied with Alan Tait going on a solo run to the edge of the area before coming up against the mountainous Mark Creighton who blocked his way and then easily dis-possessed him of the ball.
Barnes-Homer was the next to try something and shot from the edge of the area but Hook turned the ball out for a corner that in turn produced another corner. Suddenly out of no-where Eastbourne reduced the deficit by one.
They gave their intention when they quickly broke out of the Harriers half to send Neil Jenkins on a run and then shoot from thirty yards out. Bartlett saved the shot but only enough to push it out for a corner. Within a minute there was a scramble in the box that ended with the ball being bundled over the line by Paul Armstrong.
The two goal lead was soon re-instated again though just a minute later when Andy Ferrell scored his first goal of the season and this time it wasn't as a result of a gesture from the other players.
Out of nowhere he saw his chance to shoot from outside the box and somehow it crept through a ruck of players to nestle in the back of the net for 3-1.
The goals were coming thick and fast now and again Eastbourne pulled another goal back when a cross from substitute Nathan Crabb (one of three substitutions in one go) set up his brother Matt to volley into the net and set up a tense period of the game that left the Harriers hanging on.
Mark Creighton managed to stop them equalising by stopping Nathan Crabb from breaking through and then Luke Jones did likewise to stop Armstrong as he fired in a goalbound shot.
In the 81st minute Yates sent on Neil Mackenzie for his second debut for the Harriers following his last one back in 2000. The move was seen as a way of strengthening our defence and try to stop Eastbourne breaking through again.
It didn't seem to put the home side off too much because Marc Pullan came close when his header went across the goalmouth without a single Harrier getting near it.
Another change took place with Darryl Knights coming on for MBH and then soon after came Dean Bennett on for Brian Smikle. The Harriers finally stopped Eastbourne making any further progress with these changes and managed to hold out for all three points and second place in the table.
We have, what looks on paper, a comparatively easy game next Saturday with the visit of Barrow to Aggborough but any game is not a foregone conclusion. Barrow will be wanting to stop their own freefall following a good start to the season for them that has gone wrong in recent weeks.
We'll look forward to winning that one too then.