Crusaders battle hard to beat relegation rivals Eastbourne
By Ciaran Morrison
Rhys Kavanagh and Marvel Ekpiteta got the goals to secure an important three points for Hungerford
One goal in either half saw Hungerford claim a valuable three points in their fight to avoid relegation against Eastbourne Borough. In testing blustery conditions, the visitors warmed the palms of home goalkeeper Michael Luyambula early on through Corey Jordan’s near post header. Josh Bingham also had a good opportunity from a similar corner routine minutes later but this time saw his header cleared off the line. Ryan Hall shot wide and David Martin curled a free kick towards goal which hit the crossbar. Rhys Kavanagh had the first clear chance for the hosts but he couldn’t finish past Mark Smith after good build up play starting from a quick goal kick by Luyambula. Kavanagh was to put the ball in the net minutes later when his header crept in past Smith despite strong protests from the Sports that the ball hadn’t crossed the line. It was a controversial end to the first half which saw Ian Herring go in the happier manager knowing their opponents had to attack against the wind in the second half.
The wind certainly had an effect in a dominant second half for the hosts which saw them come out stronger, almost extending their advantage with a Josh Martin header following a long James Rusby throw. Alfy Whittingham forced a low save from the visiting goalkeeper before Darren Foxley hit the crossbar with a free kick. Smith stood tall to deny Kavanagh but the goalkeeper was soon to pick the ball out of his net when the resulting corner fell to centre back Marvel Ekpiteta who turned and slotted home into the corner. It was the crucial second goal that sealed the three points for the Crusaders to keep their hopes of survival alive. This contest was spoiled by the wind and swirling rain in the second half but did little to affect a hard working Crusaders outfit, ruthless in front of goal. Despite holding out pressure in the first half against Borough, the Sussex based side did little offensively to affect proceedings in the second period. Marc McGee's side are looking over their shoulders with just a six point cushion separating them and the drop zone.
For Hungerford this win was vital. Gloucester could only draw against mid table Hemel Hempsetad whilst East Thurrock fell to a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Oxford City. The gap to safety has been reduced to one point with 7 games remaining. Up next however is a tough away test against 7th placed Billericay Town.