There’s nothing quite like the FA Cup for unearthing a little-known gem. A certain Jamie Vardy made his name in the competition during his time with then Non League outfit Fleetwood Town, scoring against Football League outfits Yeovil Town, Blackpool and Wycombe Wanderers.
And Ladbrokes News continued our hunt for the next Vardy in the FA Cup, in support of the competition as the official betting partner of the FA.
On Saturday, we were down in scenic East Sussex to run the rule over Eastbourne Borough striker Elliott Romain, with the fleet-footed striker having started the campaign with eight goals in his first 11 National League North games.
But before we watched Elliott in action and had an exclusive chat with him, we wanted to get a fan’s view of the Sports’ prolific forward. Here’s Season Ticket holder and lifelong Eastbourne fan Paul Buckwell’s ‘Romain Review’.
So, did the 24-year-old hit the heights as Eastbourne took on Metropolitan Police in the FA Cup Second Qualifying Round? And did the Sports book their place in the next round?
Eastbourne Borough v Met Police
FA Cup fever is in full swing at Priory Lane as we arrive. Flags are being unfurled on the terraces, pints are being sipped in the lovely club bar and Sports’ CEO Mike Spooner is looking out over the pitch and chatting about today’s cup tie with fans. There’s a friendly feel, but once kick-off comes, it’s down to the serious stuff.
Our man Romain begins the game in lively fashion, with he and teammate Craig McAllister putting the Met defence under pressure, and their chasing leads to an opportunity for Mark Hughes, but his effort is smartly saved by visiting keeper Nathan Baxter.
However, the Isthmian Premier League outfit take a surprise 1-0 lead in the eighth minute through an Oli Robinson header. And they almost double the advantage moments later when Elliott Charles finds himself inches away from connecting with a cross inside the six-yard box. The Priory Lane faithful breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Unsurprisingly, it’s Romain who tries to take the game by the scruff of the neck, with slick passing, energetic pressing and a fierce shot on the 20-minute mark which Baxter does well to hold.
Despite patches of pressure from the hosts, the Met patrol their box excellently throughout the first-half and Eastbourne go into the break frustrated. But Tommy Widdrington’s men look revitalised after half-time and begin to turn the screw.
Shaun Cooper has the first good chance of the second period, but his shot flies over and skims above the roof and out into the car park. In his defence, it’s quite a low roof. Then in quick succession, captain Ian Simpemba’s header creeps past the near post, before Cooper whips a curling effort narrowly wide. Eastbourne are well on top now.
Then comes the equaliser. In a goalmouth scramble, Romain cleverly drags two defenders away with his movement, before his strike partner Nathaniel Pinney prods home the equaliser after 75 minutes to get his side out of jail. It’s 1-1. Are we heading back to Imber Court for a replay, or is there a winner on its way?
It looks like Eastbourne have won it on 79 minutes, but Hughes’ scorcher clangs off the inside of the post and rolls agonisingly across the goalline and out.
And then it comes. With just a minute left on the clock, the Sports’ Gavin McCallum finishes off an excellent move down the wing with an instinctive effort which squirms under Baxter, to steal a late win.
The Met chase the game in injury-time, but former Canada international McCallum has done the business, and the home side have escaped unscathed from their brush with the law. But what did we make of the day’s star attraction – Elliott Romain?
Deployed on the wing in the first half, Romain’s pressing, passing and stinging long-range efforts made him a threat to Met Police.
The visitors did mark the 24-year-old tightly throughout the opening period, and he never got a clear sight of goal, though his long-range effort 20 minutes in showed the power and accuracy of his finishing.
In a central striker role after the break, Romain linked up well with Nathaniel Pinney and his intelligent movement enabled Pinney to get that all-important equaliser.
Elliott didn’t make the scoresheet himself, so this wasn’t quite a match for those stunning displays against Hemel Hempstead and Hungerford Town earlier in the season.
However, he looked lively, versatile and creative against a well-drilled defence, and Elliott’s all-round game means we reckon Eastbourne’s number 10 could definitely cut it in the lower echelons of the EFL.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing