Borough won't segregate fans despite trouble

First published in Sport by

Eastbourne Borough will stick with their policy of letting home and away fans mingle after crowd trouble marred their 2-1 defeat by Mansfield on Saturday.

Extra police had to be called and a police helicopter flew over Priory Lane as a small group of away supporters clashed with stewards.

One Mansfield supporter was ejected from the ground while several others were cautioned by the police during a tense afternoon.

Borough are one of the only clubs in Blue Square premier who do not segregate opposing supporters and this was the first time they had experienced any trouble.

Chairman Len Smith said: “They were not actually Mansfield fans but a group who are well known trouble-makers and are banned from grounds in the Nottingham area.

“They came down the night before the game and had caused some trouble in the town so I think that was why the police arrived so quickly and in their numbers.

“It looked a lot worse than it was but it is a shame because we have never really had any problems before. We like to let the fans mingle and have had lots of praise from away supporters for being so welcoming.

“We won’t change our policy because they were fighting among themselves more than anything else so it wouldn’t have made any difference.”

The trouble started when Mansfield skipper Jonathan D’Laryea grabbed an equaliser against the run of play in first-half injury time. One fan ran on to the pitch to celebrate after D’Laryea headed home from Matt Somner’s teasing cross which sparked confrontations with the stewards.

As police moved in to calm the situation down during the interval Borough boss Garry Wilson was reading his own riot act in the changing rooms.

Borough chose to play with a strong wind at their backs in the first half and should have gone in at least one goal to the good after Andy Atkin had given them the lead in the seventh minute.

The striker, who passed a fitness test on the morning of the game, grabbed his fourth goal in two matches as he headed home from Dan Smith’s chip after the Plymouth striker had seen his initial shot saved by Alan Marriott.

That should have given them the platform to go on and seal a fifth consecutive win but despite dominating the first half the closest they came to doubling their lead was when Smith shot straight at Marriott from close range.

Stags boss David Holdsworth was forced to make a tactical substitution after just 32 minutes with the visitors unable to get out of their own half and it did the trick as they finally got a foothold in the game. It was still a surprise, though, when D’Laryea equalised with their only effort of the first half and it left Borough facing a tough battle against the wind after the interval.

Now Borough were the ones having to defend for large periods and Robert Duffy had seen one header go narrowly over and a deflected shot well saved by Lee Hook when the winner finally arrived with 12 minutes to go.

Marc Pullan gave away a free kick in a dangerous position and Michael Blackwood swung over an inviting cross for Scott Garner to power home a header.

It looked like game over at that point but Borough came back strongly and had three glorious chances to grab a point in the dying minutes.

A Simon Wormull free kick deflected against a post and Nathan Crabb shot wastefully wide while Ben Austin somehow headed over from close range from another Wormull delivery. It was Borough’s first home defeat since October and also brought to an end their impressive run of four consecutive league wins.

Wilson said: “The run had to come to an end some time but we are disappointed with the way it came to an end. We should have got a second goal in the first half and to concede just before the break and come in level was a real blow.

“We needed to come in leading because we knew it would be a real struggle against the wind in the second half but we didn’t seize our opportunities when they came. Having said that I still think we deserved at least a point.”

Eastbourne: Hook, Austin, Baker, Pullan, Lovett, Harding (Wormull, 67), Brown, Smart, M Crabb, Smith (N Crabb, 81), Atkin (Gargan, 81). Subs not used: Jordan, Xano.

Booked: None.

Mansfield: Marriott, Silk, Kay (O’Connor, 32), D’Laryea, Moses, Somner, Blackwood, Woodhouse, Garner, Ameobi (Briscoe, 73), Duffy (Howell, 90). Subs not used: Whatsize, MacKenzie.

Booked: Silk.

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