Whatever happens to the team spirit, the esprit d’corp at the New Rec evaporated in the Easter sunshine at Eastbourne Borough.
The players arrived at the ground separately and began the game like total strangers.
Jamie Taylor and Andy Pugh began brightly, getting behind the strikers when the ball was on the ground but on far too many occasions the ball was hoofed up in the air.
Steve Arnold was injured and subbed in the 3rd minute after he seemed to pull up clearing a ball from the box. Sub keeper Rob Beckwith came on but looked very hesitant.
In the 13th minute, an Allan Tait cross was fumbled by Beckwith letting Jay Lovett in to score his first league goal of the season.
It is at this point that the bullying began. Stuart Thurgood was struggling to get into the game. His form of late has been superb but when it goes, he looks for younger players to blame. He wouldn’t dream of trying it on with seasoned pros like Fabian Wilnis who was having a poor game but he began to harangue Bradley Hudson-Odoi and the very promising Sam Long. Long found he had twelve players that were against him
In the 17th minute, Taylor crossed from the left and Andy Pugh produced a fine arcing header that hit the top of the Borough bar.
Grays brought on sub Tommy Black in the 25th minute to bring some penetration to the midfield. Hudson-Odoi made way. He is clearly not a winger, he can’t track back and it was questionable why he started out of position as did Barry Cogan. Then again perhaps meagre resources dictated that decision.
Black’s inclusion was vindicated in the 43rd minute when Jamie Taylor worked hard to retrieve a ball near the corner flag, sent over a fine cross and Black, running from deep headed from close range.
Eastbourne went back into the lead in the 50th minute when Fabian Wilnis was harshly ajudged to have pushed Allan Tait in the box. Skipper Paul Armstrong squeezed the ball past a diving Rob Beckwith to restore the lead.
The Blues just couldn’t get back into it. They have a rhythm and a game plan at home that simply evaporates away. At the back, Fabian Wilnis was using all his experience to not thump Jack Jeffrey who spent the whole of the second half falling over.
Andy Pugh should have watched and learned. In the 81st minute he wildly hacked down Matt Crabb, giving the referee little option but to red card Pugh and put an end to his season.
There were little attacks of note for the Blues. Barry Cogan corners seemed to sail over the players heads, free kicks went straight into the wall and shots went in the direction of the English Channel.
Grays are still in the mire. Weymouth under Bobby Gould got their first point in 12 matches while York grabbed an away point. On the brighter side Forest Green will have been shocked by not taking the three points from the Terras, Barrow dropped another two points and Woking’s mini-revival ended at home in a 2-0 defeat to Oxford (in front of 2,000 travelling fans!)
Altrincham, Crawley and Forest Green to come. Form would dictate that there are two draws and a victory in there which would surely be enough. No Pugh could be a problem.
This team needs a leader right now. Stuart Thurgood and Jamie Stuart need to show leadership, maturity and guidance. Shouting at teenagers isn’t leadership.
Maybe former Charlton defender Eddie Youds, watching both games over Easter could give some advice on when and where to display “the right stuff”.
Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report