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, while Ramone Rose returned at right back. In central defence, with George Essuman having being recalled from his loan spell by Dover Athletic, Zac Fagan got his second start alongside home debutant Yannis Ambroisine. Eastbourne Borough were captained by the former Hawks favourite Sergio Torres, with another former Hawk, Lloyd Dawes, on the bench.
The new strike force almost made an immediate impact as Gold Omotayo was put through by Ramone Rose one on one against Sports’ keeper Mark Smith in the third minute, but he side-footed the ball wide with the goal at his mercy. 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 free kick into the box and after he failed to collect it, 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 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