Crawley Down Gatwick went into this game absolutely flying at the top of the Southern Combination Premier Division with 11 wins in 11 games. Town on the other hand was looking to bounce back from a 2-0 defeat, and the ending of our unbeaten run on the road to Crowborough last week.
It was Town who were dealt the first blow after receiving news that superstar right back Freddie Legg had been recalled by his parent club Hastings United in order to be utilised in their fixture against Margate. Leon Greig filled in at right back with Anesu Sisimayi making the starting lineup for the first time in 2023.
The game kicked off after a minute’s silence for former long-standing chairman of The Saffrons, David Lockyer. The first 15 minutes were uneventful with Chris Winterton parrying away an early cross from the Crawley Down attack, a set piece rebound being blazed way over the top of the crossbar ( and indeed the stand) and a Town cross caught safely by Crawley Down keeper Alex Bellingham.
20 minutes into the first half, the Crawley Down bench erupted appealing for handball. The referee however saw things differently. Crawley Down blazed another one over the bar before Oliver Davies charged on an Eastbourne counterattack and took a shot before the flag eventually went up. After more wasted chances at either end of the pitch, this time it was Town’s bench’s turn to erupt calling for handball. Once again, referee David Spain was uninterested.
After a header from a set play was glanced over the bar by Harvey Enticknap and a 37th-minute booking for Sisimayi for a brutal challenge on a Crawley Down man, Town picked up a free kick in a potentially lethal position. The cross was sent in low and there was yet another handball appeal. Yet again, the referee was uninterested.
It was looking increasingly likely the sides were going to go in at halftime drawing 0-0 until a moment of magic occurred in the 44th minute when Leon Greig sent a corner into the box. The ball curled magnificently into the far corner not touching anyone en route and leaving Crawley Down defenders bewildered. Eastbourne Town lead one goal to nil at the break.
Crawley Down Gatwick came out at the second half looking desperate to right their wrongs firing in a set piece early on which ultimately was headed behind. They repeated the tick with a corner a while later yet again going wide. Harvey Enticknap then came off for Charlie Pitcher for Crawley Down and James Waters came on for Tyler Capon with both sides hoping these fresh legs early in the second half would be enough to get them their much needed points.
After the 60th minute, Town began to show what their attack can do. Newly acquired James Hull beat 3 defenders before crossing it towards Davies however Bellingham was there to pluck the ball out of the sky to prevent Eastbourne from doubling their lead. Crawley Down then had an attack of their own launching a Rory Delap style throw into the mixer however Winterton was able to deal with it.
Eastbourne charged forwards again with seemingly omnipresent Davies rounding the keeper, passing it to James Hull who couldn’t shoot with enough power and the keeper got back in time to stop the ball from crossing the line. Eastbourne then had a dangerous free kick however it was dragged over the wall but just wide by James waters. James hull then charged forwards with an attempt of his own but was beaten to it by Bellingham.
In the 75th minute yet another Eastbourne break. The Crawley Down defender failed to clear it however the cross into the box was scuffed and it resulted in a goal kick. Oliver Davies rounded Bellingham again however the ball was snatched from his feet as Bellingham scrambled. Oliver Davies came forwards again and tried to chip Bellingham – who seemed to have an obsession with coming off his line- however, the ball sailed over and landed on top of the net.
Chris Winterton was then worked for the first time in a while as Crawley Down sent in 2 crosses in as many minutes as they desperately searched for a goal. The game then became stop-start with fouls, substitutions and some tactical time-wasting. Town Under 23s graduate Callum Barlow came on to show what he can offer to the senior team, who by the manager Jude Macdonald’s own admission, do not score enough. Callum almost rounded the keeper and then skilfully outmuscled two players as he went to the corner flag to try and see the game off.
After a controversially large amount of added time, the game finished Eastbourne town 1-0 Crawley Down Gatwick.
Eastbourne town travel to Little Common on Tuesday.
Match officials: David Spain, Peter Coleman and Gary Lucas.
Written by, Mackenzie Whitehouse – Eastbourne Town Media Team
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