Preview: Eastbourne Borough

It’ll be three games against the Sports in four months by the time our league commitments with them are complete in just under a month’s time.

But sandwiched in between those two league games comes this Isuzu FA Trophy Second Round tie against our fellow National League South club.

The first clash back in August was as dramatic a game as they come – reduced to 10 men, then nine, with no goalkeeper after Chris Haigh’s double-ankle-break and a midfielder deputising for him, not to mention the small matter of being a goal behind – Fleet somehow summoned the grit, determination and passion to score twice and make off with the points.

‘Goalkeeper’ Ben Chapman joins his teammates upfield in celebrations at Eastbourne in August

As this Trophy tie is decided – one way or another – on the day, with any potential draw in 90 minutes going straight to a penalty shootout, there could yet be more drama played out between Ebbsfleet and Eastbourne.

That was the scenario in our last game in this competition, when Fleet’s last-gasp revival at Cray Wanderers from two goals down last season pushed the tie into penalties, the Isthmian Leaguers making it through from the spot.

With a couple of players on the mend from Dennis Kutrieb’s injury list and approaching contention for a starting place, the likelihood of a starting berth for a couple who didn’t feature last week against Tonbridge is high. Elliott Romain could face his former club, having returned there on loan earlier this season, while any players pencilled in for a start at Cheshunt in midweek may find they get another chance as Fleet earned an unscheduled midweek off thanks to the weather.

Eastbourne, too, enjoyed a free week with no fixtures to follow their morale-boosting 1-0 win over St Albans City last Saturday. It’s been an up and down time for Danny Bloor’s squad as the team that competed for play-offs for the past two seasons finds itself squarely in mid-table.

Off the back of another win over Cheshunt and draw against Farnborough, that’s been an upturn in form for the Sports, who previously endured a run of four games without a win including a 5-0 defeat at Chelmsford.

Bloor’s squad is largely unchanged since we met in August so there are no fresh surprises for the Fleet ahead of the Trophy tie. On-loan Colchester striker Jake Hutchinson combined with the experience of former EFL playmaker Chris Whepdale will be the chief threats for the visitors.

In terms of cup football, Eastbourne made it to the Fourth Qualifying Round in the Emirates FA Cup this season, losing to National League Maidenhead. As far as the Trophy is concerned, the visitors don’t have the best record in the competition. They reached Round 3 last season but that’s as far as they’ve been and was the same stage at which we met back in 2004/05 when Fleet won in a replay to progress to the quarter-finals.

A reminder that this is an all-pay game and season tickets are not valid. Online tickets can be bought here until 11.30am on Saturday, after which ticket sales will be at our ticket windows by reception. Alcohol is not permitted to be consumed in view of the playing area under FA competition rules.


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