Diesel the dog looked on and so did 219 humans of various motivations. Diesel is clear. She goes to every Tunbridge Wells (“The Wells”, never “Tunbridge”) home and way, provided they let her in. The man we met in the bar was less definite. He just needs new grounds to tick off. The Oval isn’t new but it can now be logged. But six matches in six days had left our explorer a little jaded. I hope he stuck around to the end of this FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round replay because after a slow start this game was worthy of that highest of praises: “a proper cup tie”.
Neither Eastbourne United AFC nor Tunbridge Wells have begun their league seasons with their drawn game on Saturday opening both of their campaigns. All agreed that the match in Kent was hard fought with a fair result. For much of this evening it looked like we were going to witness another tight one. The ball was often in midfield with defensive smarts stifling any go-forward from either team. When Eastbourne did take the lead, around the half hour mark, it came via a pounce on an error. They did the same again after the break to take what looked to be a fairly comfortable 2-0 lead. But Wells ploughed forward. It looked like they wouldn’t get the breaks but with about twenty minutes left they pulled one back. And then it all broke loose.
Defensive resilience, even common sense, seemed to fly out the window. Half chances were there for both sides. Eastbourne fired a one-on-one break well wide and Wells got goal shy even when they pushed through into the box. Somehow seven minutes of injury time were found – and during it a red card was brandished as an Eastbourne player lunged though from behind.
So it ended 2-1. For the winners, a home tie against either Newhaven or Rochester United. For the losers, the knowledge that they came so close. For everyone watching: some pretty decent entertainment as the football juggernaut fires up once more.