Barrow 2 Fleet 0

Gavin Heeroo sees red in away-day trek…

Ebbsfleet face a long trip home from Cumbria as another luckless 90 minutes yielded scant reward for a resilient performance after they were reduced to 10 men in the first half following Gavin Heeroo’s sending-off.

Liam Daish handed young Chris Henry his first chance of the season, while Scott Ginty – a midweek scorer in a friendly at Barnet – won his first start. Debutant Elliot Charles lined up alongside him while Ricky Shakes and Ishmael Welsh found themselves relegated to the bench.

Ginty was the only player who caught sight of goal in the opening quarter, flashing a shot wide on 23 minutes but the Fleet’s gameplan was soon unravelling shortly afterwards as Paul McCarthy limped off, to be replaced by Will Salmon.

Encouraged, Barrow immediately upped the ante, former Halifax and Crawley striker Jon Shaw blasting over from close range and minutes later Neil Wainwright kept his effort down but off-target. Lance Cronin was almost caught out soon afterwards when Paul Rutherford’s cross to the far post almost crept over the Fleet keeper, but he stretched to get a hand to the ball to help it over the bar.

In an even enough first half, the Fleet defended in numbers but proved difficult to break down as the home side, who began to gain more of a grip from the half-hour mark, lacked any real penetration.

But having dug in the Fleet then dug themselves a hole. Gavin Heeroo, comfortable at right back until then, lunged at Jason Walker to earn a yellow card on 31 minutes and six minutes later inexplicably repeated the trick on Wainwright, leaving the referee with little option but to issue a second yellow.

The Fleet regrouped, Ricky Shakes replacing Scott Shulton five minutes later, but Daish opted to stick with two men up front and bypass his outnumbered midfield, Ginty falling back when necessary.

Shakes was the first off the blocks after the restart combining with Kane Wills to drive at the Barrow defence, but his shot flew harmlessly towards goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson.

On the hour mark, Ginty – growing in stature as the game wore on – made a good run down the right and his inviting cross fell just ahead of Elliot Charles and Barrow were fortunate to clear.

But the home side came closer still two minutes later when good work down the wings saw Wainwright’s shot blocked and the rebound fell to Gareth Jellyman whose decent volley cleared the bar by the narrowest of margins.

But with the Fleet seeming to have done enough for a point, they fell in the final 15 minutes once more. Andy Bond struck a ball from midfield and for the only time all afternoon, Shaw – who scored Crawley’s last-minute equaliser at Stonebridge Road last season – got the better of Darius Charles and tucked his shot under Cronin and in off the post.

Ten minutes later, Barrow deflated any hopes of a comeback, Shaw involved again knocking the ball forward and as Charles hesitated over his clearance, Andy Cook pounced to prod the ball which rolled agonisingly slowly over the line.

They could have made it three, but Cronin’s legs thwarted substitute Carlos Logan in the dying minutes. The home side, out of jail really given their lacklustre attacking until the last 15 minutes, ended strongly as a dejected Fleet exited to lick their wounds and bemoan their luck – and not for the first time this season.

TEAM: Cronin, Heeroo, D. Charles, Crooks, McCarthy (Salmon 24), Shulton (Shakes 42), Wills, Holmes, Henry, E. Charles, Ginty (Vieira 80). Subs not used: West, Welsh.
Att: 1,241

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