Concord Rangers breezed past their Conference South rivals Eastbourne on a windy afternoon at the Aspect Arena writes Chris Clark.
The Beachboys fresh from an impressive four points from two tough away trips at Bath and Maidstone, returned to action in the league at home for the first time since holding leaders Ebbsfleet to a draw on the 2nd January. The wind swirled round the stadium as the game got underway, Concord had the wind behind their backs in the first half and the opening stages were very scrappy as both side’s struggled to get the ball under control in the blustery conditions. Eastbourne had the first real opportunity of the match on thirteen minutes, when front-man Jamie Taylor dragged his shot wide from eighteen yards. From the resulting goal kick, Concord took the lead! McNamara with the wind behind his back played a goal kick down the centre of the pitch…Eastbourne defenders played the cardinal sin of letting the ball bounce, and Steve Cawley was in…Cawley showing calmness personified tucked the ball away from eight yards. The Beachboys had taken the lead with their first shot on target after fourteen minutes. Concord had their tails up, and delightful link up play between Greenhalgh and Cawley meant that Max Cornhill had an opportunity of the edge of the box after seventeen minutes, however his well placed shot was turned away well by Carey in the Eastbourne goal.
Concord all over the pitch were winning the second balls, they were dominating the game, and it was no surprise that they went 2-0 after twenty five minutes. In fact it was a brilliant team goal. Good build up play, led to Lewis Taaffe playing a sublime ball into Ben Greenhalgh, who deftly laid the ball off to Steve Cawley eighteen yards out and Steve slammed the ball into the far corner for his fifteen goal of the season. Concord were cruising. However the plain sailing was brought to a halt on twenty-eight minutes, when a rare foray into the Concord box, led to an Eastbourne penalty…Cornhill leant into the on-rushing Taylor who went down…consensus amongst the crowd was “well I’ve seen them given.” Nathan Pinney stepped up and struck the penalty and despite the best efforts of McNamara in the Concord goal, Eastbourne reduced the deficit to one.
The Beachboys did not let this goal affect them however and they restored the two goal margin on thirty eight minutes. Again a ball through the centre of Eastbourne defence did the trick and Lewis Taaffe was in one-on-one with Carey in the Eastbourne goal… he nudged the ball past Carey…was it going in?? Well Sam Bantick made sure from a few yards out and scored his first of many league goals for the Beachboys. Concord lead 3-1 and were playing some great stuff despite the conditions.
Carey was again called into action when Captain James White curled in a free kick from thirty yards on the stroke of half time, Carey excellently tipped the ball over. From the resulting corner Cawley sniffing out a hat trick saw his snap-volley beat away by the Eastbourne stopper.
Concord Rangers 3 Eastbourne Borough 1
The second half got underway and the Beachboys knew they would have to be resolute during the opening stages to ensure they didn’t let Eastbourne back into the game. The back four scrapped and blocked everything that the visitors threw into their defensive third. Jay Dowie playing right back in place of the suspended James Hammond was all action, and his battle against Eastbourne’s most impressive player Kane Haysman was one of the highlights of the half. When Eastbourne did breach the Concord back-line, Ben McNamara was quickly off his line to avert any danger. This was the case on fifty minutes when Nathan Pinney benefited from a slip in defence and found himself free in the box, but McNamara didn’t allow Pinney time to settle himself and quickly cleared the danger.
After Eastbourne’s opening thrusts, Concord began to find the gaps in the Eastbourne defence and on fifty nine minutes, a positive driving run from Greenhalgh, led to the striker having his shot deflected away for a corner. The resulting corner saw Max Cornhill have a header cleared off the line. Two minutes later…deja vu! Cornhill header from a corner cleared off the line!!
On sixty-six minutes Concord should have made it four. Great play by Greenhalgh set up Cawley for the hat-trick opportunity ten yards out from goal…however his volley was brilliantly saved by Carey. The rebound fell to Taaffe whose shot was saved by Carey, it fell to Taaffe again and his second shot was cleared off the line and cleared. The rumour going round after the game was that Taaffe was still out on the pitch trying to finish off those chances!!
Eastbourne were struggling to create any worthwhile chances, and the closest they came was from an Evans free kick from twenty five yards which was superbly tipped over from bar by McNamara on seventy eight minutes.
If you thought that Concord should have made it four on sixty-six minutes…well they definitely should have done on eighty three minutes…brilliant play by Taaffe down the right hand side, as he burned the full back and whipped in a delightful cross for Cawley… “head it Steve” cried the crowd…however Cawley went for the volley and fired over from six yards. Cawley knew that he should have left the pitch with the match ball under his arm.
An excellent Concord performance was wrapped up in the ninetieth minute when a Ronaldo-esque goal finally gave Concord their fourth goal. Greenhalgh went on a mazy run…he did a bit of skill, I don’t know what you call it…some kind of side foot nutmeg thing…anyway his low shot beat the despairing Carey in the Eastbourne goal. A brilliant performance topped off with brilliant goal.
The Beachboys now move into the top half of the table unbeaten in five games, and looking a match for any side in the league.
Concord Rangers 4 (Cawley 14, 25, Bantick 39, Greenhalgh 90)
Eastbourne Borough 1 (Pinney (pen) 28)
McNamara, Dowie, Stephen, King, Lee; White (c), Cornhill, Taaffe, Bantick (sub Osborn 65mins); Greenhalgh, Cawley (sub Topley 90mins)
Subs Not Used – Easterford, Lampe, Corderoy(gk)
Match Report by Chris Clark.