Hawks’ boss Steve King gave Swiss striker Gold Omotayo his first start, going with two strikers in a bid for a first league win in the last match of 2017. Ramone Rose returned at right back, while in central defence Zac Fagan got his second start alongside home debutant Yannis Ambroisine, with George Essuman having being recalled by Dover Athletic. Eastbourne Borough were captained by fomer Hawks favourite Sergio Torres, with ex-Hawks youth striker Lloyd Dawes on the bench.
The new strike force almost made an immediate impact. In the third minute Gold Omotayo was put through one on one by Ramone Rose, but he side-footed the ball wide of the near post with the goal at his mercy and Nathaniel Pinney waiting for a square ball. The early lead, which would have done so much to boost the confidence of the home team didn’t materialise and things got even worse for the Hawks on 20 minutes. Keeper Seny Dieng, who has been in impressive form throughout his loan spell from QPR, came for a long hopeful free kick into the box and after he failed to collect it, inexplicably shoved Sports defender Ian Simpemba in the back for a blatant penalty, which Yemi Odubade converted.
The unexpected goal settled the visitors down and Gavin McCallum almost extended the lead with a left-foot shot from the edge of the box that cannoned off the bar. For the Hawks on the half hour, Omotayo forced Mark Smith into a brave save at his feet.
Playing down hill in the second half, the Hawks enjoyed a considerable amount of possession, with wide men Sam Chaney and Ky Marsh-Brown causing problems, without creating any real clear-cut chances. Despite dominating and with Borough looking vulnerable, in truth the Hawks lacked that extra bit of quality and link up play around the penalty area, as well as a bit of much-needed luck, that would have got them back in the game.
Nassim L’Ghoul’s introduction with 15 minutes remaining added some further attacking unpredictability but despite a flurry of late corners, poor delivery into the box undermined the Hawks’ attempts to salvage the game. Indeed, with only three at the back, Fagan, Ambroisine and Cadman had to be alert to the chance of a break away, as the Sports held on for a rare clean sheet and a vital three points.
Hawks boss Steve King told the Argus: “You’re looking for light at the end of the tunnel. I felt today had the potential for three points and, in my opinion, I felt we deserved them. We had the chances and should have buried them. It just isn’t running for us in the final third.”
The two teams meet again at Priory Lane on New Year’s Day.
Hawks man of the match: Sam Chaney
Hawks: Dieng, Rose (L’Ghoul 76), Cadman, Ijaha (c), Fagan, Ambroisine, Chaney, Cain, Omotayo, Pinney (Gueye 60), Marsh-Brown
Unused subs: Walsh, Rodrigues, Mensah
Sports: Smith, Udoji (Khinda-John 58), Haran, Simpemba, Hendon, Wills, Ransom, Torres (c), Okojie, Odubade (Dawes 67, Johnson 85), McCallum.
Unused subs: Richards, Armstrong-Ford.
Goals: Odubade 20′ pen
Yellow cards: Udoji 49′
Referee: Ian Fissenden