1-0 And You F*cked It Up – Eastbourne Town (H)

1. Sunday 30th September will be remembered for decades as the date of one of the great sporting comebacks, as Europe came back from the dead at Medinah – and at Kingsmeadow, Kingstonian completed a slightly less celebrated comeback of their own with two late Wade Small goals. Comebacks always feel good, whether they take place in front of 300 anoraks at an English non-league football game, or in front of 50,000 mindless jocks at one of the world’s top sporting competitions. Comebacks also always bring effusive praise from fans, because of the very British peculiarity that we’d rather support a sportsman, or a team, with bottle and nerve rather than one with talent alone. The fact that K’s showed a huge amount of desire and character to get this win shouldn’t be ignored, but neither should it disguise a very average performance.

2. The truth is that K’s were desperately poor for long periods of this game, and could very easily have lost had Eastbourne been slightly more clinical in front of goal. Coming as this fixture did on the back of the morale-sapping cup defeat to East Thurrock, perhaps it was no surprise that K’s failed to return to the swashbuckling standards of the first five games of the season. But the players looked lethargic in the main, and Eastbourne comfortably held their own in the first half. The second half brought more urgency, and K’s at least tried to move the ball more quickly, but it took Dowse’s substitutions (not for the first time this season) to give K’s a genuine attacking threat. There’s some tricky league fixtures coming up, and we need to improve.

3. We need to talk about Gary MacDonald. Leader? Undoubtedly. Good bloke in the dressing room? I have no idea, but those who do know about these things say that he is. Fantastic going forward? Indeed – to the tune of several goals a season. But do the first three positives outweigh the fact that he’s been very average every time he’s played this season? And, cutting to the point, can we afford to play a centre half who seems to make at least one, and often two, major errors every time he plays? It seems like this question isn’t allowed to be asked, that it’s a taboo subject around the club – but it needs to be said. Gary: please, please concentrate for 90 minutes!

4. We also need to talk about Craig Mullen. Was it that lower-league Eastbourne were used to marking burly target men that allowed them to deal with his threat so comfortably? Or was his promising performance at Guildford a flash in the pan? On Sunday he was neither quick enough to run in behind nor strong enough to hold up the ball consistently and drag the rest of the team up the pitch. Given there’s little goal threat either, I’m not sure the big man will keep his place for Saturday’s game.

5. Is it overstating the case to say that we might, perhaps, be at a crossroads? A quick return to the exciting, threatening, marauding side of August and early September would indicate that maybe the last three games can be written off  – one played with 10 men, and the other two in the cups – and as such there’s nothing to worry about. Equally, a continuation of the hesitant and downright poor defending of the last two games would without question lead to a downturn in form in the league as well. Come on lads, show us what you’re about.

Man Of The Match: Wade Small, even though he was only on the pitch for 25 minutes. That says a lot about the first 65…

Key Moment: There were two, both as important as each other. First, Rob Tolfrey’s point-blank reaction save, and then the Eastbourne centre forward’s inexplicable miss from 6 yards out with the score at 0-1. If either had gone in, it would have been over, and we’d have been out of the Trophy with a third successive loss. As it is, we’re through with a morale-boosting win. Fine margins.

Away Fans: 0/10. I couldn’t see one. What’s the point?

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