EASTBOURNE Borough did a job on Basingstoke Town in Sussex on Saturday, preventing the visitors from playing and taking advantage of some sloppy defending to claim a deserved victory.

Town made a good start, but it was Eastbourne who broke the deadlock, and having gone ahead, the hosts employed a high press to stop Town playing out from the back, frustrating their visitors.


Both sides stuck with the 3-5-2 formation that they had employed in their meeting six days earlier. Town made two, enforced changes, with Shaun McAuley and James Harper slotting into midfield, but in general, they were set up in exactly the same way.

Eastbourne made four changes. All of them were straight swaps, with the most noteworthy coming in attack, where Richard Pacquette and Nathaniel Pinney were replaced by Gavin McCallum and Darren Lok.

Eastbourne’s high press frustrates Town

Basingstoke were the better side in the opening 15 minutes, keeping the ball well and creating some chances. In fact, the pattern of the game looked like it would be exactly the same as the game at The Soccer AM Stadium six days earlier, a match that Town dominated.

However, the major turning point in the match came on 17 minutes, when the hosts got their noses in front. Getting a goal seemed to energise Eastbourne, who began to put more pressure on Town’s defenders when they had the ball.

The change in strikers was key to this. Pacquette and Pinney are experienced and proven players at Vanarama Conference South level, but McCallum and Lok are far more mobile.

Town’s back three had been able to work the ball around Eastbourne’s strikers in the first game, but McCallum and Lok had the pace to put them under pressure.

Playing into a strong wind didn’t help, with the visitors struggling to get the ball out of their own half when put under pressure and forced to clear their lines.

This pressing was rewarded just before the half-hour. Lok and McCallum forced Town’s back three deeper and deeper with the ball and when it was eventually given to goalkeeper Stuart Moore, he was under pressure, resulting in an attacking throw from which the hosts scored.

Set pieces are Basingstoke’s downfall

Both of Eastbourne’s first-half goals came from set pieces, with defender Ian Simpemba setting up the first with a flick on from a free-kick, before nodding home the second from a long throw.

With Jay Gasson and Jamie Brown out injured, and Liam Enver-Marum on the bench, Town lacked a bit of height. David Ray seemed to be the man charged with marking Simpemba, but it wasn’t really a fair fight, with Ray giving up several inches.

Even taking this into account, it wasn’t a great afternoon defensively for Basingstoke. Lok was given far too much space in the penalty area to score the first goal, while Simpemba got up above several players, not just Ray, to get his head to a long throw for the second.

Eastbourne’s third goal, scored near the end of the game, was also a bad goal to concede. A couple of weak challenges down the Town right were followed by a rare mistake from Moore, before the visitors missed a few chances to clear their lines and allowed Pacquette, who had come on as a substitute, enough time to turn and fire home from just outside the six-yard box.

Eastbourne stay strong after the break

Having got two goals ahead, Eastbourne shut up shop in the second half, and Town were unable to break them down. The hosts continued to put pressure on the ball high up the pitch, and Basingstoke were unable to pass the ball out.

It would have been interesting to see how things had gone had the wind remained strong, as clearances from the back could have turned into through-balls for the strikers, but with the breeze dying down, it was easy for the home defence.

Town never really threatened until they conceded the third goal, at which point the hosts seemed to switch off a bit, defending deeper and allowing Basingstoke to build pressure.


Eastbourne went into their games against Basingstoke having won just two of their previous 13 league games. Having seen them play twice in the space of six days, I’m at a loss to explain that run.

On Saturday, they became just the second team this season to prevent Town scoring in an away game, and they looked a really solid unit defensively over the course of the two games.

Going forward, there’s not a great deal of flair, but Frankie Raymond is a fine passer of the ball and they are a real threat from set pieces. I’d expect them to win a few more games between now and the end of the season.

It just wasn’t Town’s day on Saturday. Eastbourne did well to strangle them, but events also conspired against them, with the wind a case in point.

They didn’t defend well at times, and also struggled to create chances. A bad day at the office, but the good news was the return from injury of Enver-Marum, who gives them more of a physical presence in attack, allowing them to go a bit more direct if a Plan B is needed.