By Adam May
MARK Hawkes, the Chelmsford City boss, bemoaned his side's naivety as they were beaten 2-0 by Eastbourne Borough.
Just eight minutes separated Boro's strikes, which were enough for Eastbourne to record their first victory of the season and they were rewarded for their stubborn but expansive approach.
The Clarets had chances through Joe Ward and Christian Smith to break the deadlock but their accuracy was lacking and it took until the 63rd and 71st minute respectively for Eastbourne to break Mark Hawkes's side.
And the City manager was disappointed with the result, although claims that he cannot fault his side for effort.
“I think that we are naïve and gave too many free-kicks away,” he said.
“It was only a matter of time before one of them counted and we’ve had five good opportunities to score goals and not put them under pressure.
“It’s not good enough at the moment. I can’t fault my boys for effort. We finished the strongest team again for the second game on the trot. There’s nothing wrong with their fitness and I’d never knock their work-rate or commitment.
“Our defending is naïve and we are not clinical enough up front.”
The Clarets made an explosive start with skipper Mark Hughes side-footing the ball into Boro keeper Lewis Carey’s arms, which followed an inventive dummy by Michael Cheek.
The frontman struggled to have much of an impact in the match due to a lack of support once the ball reached to him; however, give Borough credit – the centre back pairing of Adam Watts and Ian Simpemba were impressive and dominant.
Their solid and decisive performance gave the hosts a platform to build-upon and James Walker almost capitalised when he shot low from outside the area, but the shot was blocked, allowing Nicky Eyre to comfortably collect.
The first half was an open affair with both teams enjoying success in the wide positions as the Clarets ditched their diamond formation – which was a key element of pre-season – to favour a 4-5-1 set-up with Joe Ward replacing Luke Callander.
And Boro exploited the Clarets’ left-flank when Marvin Hamilton bombed forward and aimed a teasing cross towards the far post, which journeyman Richard Paquette headed agonisingly wide from all of two yards.
Eastbourne continued to be resolute in defence, restricting players such as Christian Smith and Glen Southam to long-range strikes, and could have taken the lead through James Walker.
The former Gillingham and Southend United front-man burst into the box but Marvin Ekpiteta was at hand to cleanly tackle and clear up-field.
City Academy product Joe Ward then had the best chance of the half when he split the defence in two, thus finding himself one-on-one with Boro shot stopper Lewis Carey. The tricky winger, who looked lively throughout, had too much time to think and was caught in two minds to either shoot or slide in Lee Sawyer. He did neither, and planted his effort low but into the hands of the grateful keeper.
The Clarets shaded the second half in terms of possession although struggled to transform that control into clear-cut chances.
They paid the ultimate price, too, when the Clarets’ defence failed to deal with Gavin McCallum’s free-kick into the area, allowing Richard Pacquette to head the ball home following a goal-mouth scramble after 63 minutes.
And it was soon 2-0 in the hosts’ favour as the Clarets were punished after failing to track Boro’s runners. Gavin McCallum subsequently picked the ball up following his one-two with James Walker and nestled his delicious shot into the bottom corner as City struggled to contain the former Conference Premier side.
Luke Callander and Michael Cheek both forced saves from Lewis Carey in the dying embers of the match but the damage was done and City looked depleted. The defence lost their composure in the aftermath of the two Boro goals which will disappoint Mark Hawkes and Steve Smith.
A tricky away tie at Bath City duly follows on Saturday, and City will have to re-group quickly if they are to make up for the back-to-back defeats.
Chelmsford City: Eyre; Love, Redwood, Hughes (C),Haines; Ekpiteta, Sawyer, Southam, Ward, Cheek, Smith.