Culley rescues point for Beavers
Super sub grabs draw for Hampton on south coast, but it could have been a win
The Beavers stayed in touch with the playoff race as they recovered from being a goal behind with substitute Duncan Culley's 89th minute pinpoint header.
The game didn't really get started until midway through the first half when a break forward got Alfie Pavey into enough space on the edge of the box. His initial shot was blocked and in the follow up scramble, the Beavers had another shot saved by keeper Jordan Holmes, before the final attempt drifted wide.
On the half hour, the Beavers took the lead. Brendan Kiernan's mazy run from the left was ended as he was clumsily brought down in the area, the referee deemed it enough for a penalty to be awarded. Tom Jelley stepped up and hit a very neat spot kick, sending Holmes to his right while hitting it straight down the middle.
This woke up the hosts, and they put the Beavers defence under pressure, winning corners and free kicks which were repelled one by one. The Sports' kept up the pressure, and in the 44th minute they finally got their equaliser. A corner from the Beavers right was met by defender Mark Hughes and his bullet header beat Sam Howes and the defenders on the line to leave the game level at the break.
The second half was slow to get going and the Beavers were not making much impression although just before the hour, Josh Casey looked to have created an opening as he charged down the left. Getting to the byeline, his low cross was only just intercepted by Holmes as Leon Solomon looked to get on the end.
5 minutes later, a great first time pass from Pavey set Christian Jolley into space, Holmes came out of the area and managed to prevent Christian from getting the shot on target at the expense of a corner.
On 71 minutes, the Beavers were caught exposed in defence as Alex Smith was set free down the left as the Sports counter-attacked with pace. The winger's cross to the back post was met by an unmarked Nathaniel Pinney; his header across goal was out of Howes' reach and found the back of the net to leave the Beavers behind and not really deserving to be.
Dowse almost immediately decided a change was necessary, bringing on Jerome Federico and Duncan Culley for Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick and Christian Jolley, and this started to pay dividends right away as Duncan Culley started to ruffle the feathers of the Sports defence with his pace and strength.
Eastbourne were not sitting on their lead, with substitute Craig Stone looking to try and beat Howes from distance but his shot kept rising and in the end was well over the bar.
The Beavers were by now really chasing the game, Duncan Culley being the catalyst behind the charge; and with a minute to play, they got their reward.
Jerome Federico was starting to enjoy some space on the right, and chasing back towards halfway, turned and hit a great cross into the box. Reacting quickest, Duncan Culley managed to just get a half yard in front of the defender, and he glanced a pinpoint header into the top corner of the net from about 8 yards out as Holmes desperately tried and failed to get a hand on it.
Deep into added time, Culley could still have won the game for the Beavers as his firmly struck volley from the edge of the area rocketed towards goal; unfortunately it was straight at Holmes who was able to divert it over the bar. A foot either side and the keeper wouldn't have got near it, it had that much pace on it.
In the end, it was felt a draw was just about a fair result, leaving the Beavers just a couple of points off 4th place and the playoffs although they are still sat in 8th place.
Looks like these last three months of this season are going to be a playoff battle for the Beavers, and with three of the next four games (Gosport Borough, Margate and Weston-super-Mare) to be played at Beveree, there's every chance the end of February could see them right back in the playoff places.