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Chippenham Town 1-2 Ebbsfleet United

There were tunes emanating from the Fleet dressing room at full-time following this hard-fought win in Wiltshire… the only surprise was that one of them wasn’t November Rain.

A pre-match deluge and another torrent in the closing stages of the match threatened to dominate proceedings and meant this was hard work for both sides – but Fleet prevailed thanks to a brace from returning defender Jake Goodman.

Dennis Kutrieb was forced into a change of goalkeepers with Jordan Holmes unavailable, handing the shirt once more to Tom Hadler, Fleet having to forego the added security of a second goalkeeper on the bench. There was also a start for Reece Grant in place of Michael West.

Lee Martin had the first opportunity at goal on nine minutes, accepting delivery from a corner to thud an effort between the Chippenham defence that Will Puddy had to get down low to stop.

Rakish Bingham put another into the side netting before the home side, as in the FA Cup tie, found themselves ahead early on. It came in the 12th minute, Ross Stearn’s free-kick half-cleared to Joe Hanks. He sent a high ball back into the box and Brad Ash did well to chest it down, getting ahead of the Fleet defence and poking it past the oncoming Hadler.

Stearn struck another free-kick into the Fleet wall on 18 minutes before Hadler made an excellent intervention from Ryan Brunt’s cross into the box, pushing that away before Ash could convert.

Their tails up, Chippenham caused the Fleet a few anxious moments with defenders having to mop up a couple of incursions out of the six-yard box. Stearn then sent an acrobatic volley from the right across goal and just wide.

An injury to Chippenham defender Kieran Parselle allowed the Fleet to regroup a little and the visitors began to enjoy more possession and while not controlling proceedings, at least calling the shots a little more.

Tobi Adebayo-Rowling was Fleet’s best outlet, his strong runs down the right flank trying to pick out his teammates and haul his side back into the game.

He had a cross headed out of the six-yard box on 33 minutes and three minutes from half-time, Bobby-Joe Taylor twisted into space before laying a clever pass through for Martin to run on to inside the box, his effort on target blocked by Puddy.

The disjointed first 45 minutes drew strong words at half-time and Fleet came out in higher gear for the second period.

And they should have equalised within 30 seconds of the restart, Grant finding himself unbalanced but managing to steer the ball on target, that effort cleared away from the line by Eddie Jones. Martin was following up and his shot was blocked for a corner as rain teemed down.

Moments later Taylor and Martin combined down the left, a ball into Alfie Egan resulting in another chance on target but saved once more by Puddy.

Fleet grabbed the equaliser their improved play merited on 53 minutes. Sefa Kahraman’s corner wasn’t taken by Puddy, hardly surprising given the slippery, sodden nature of the game to that point, and it dropped for Goodman to touch home.

The home side reacted by introducing the experienced Chris Zebroski and he had one or two sniffs at the Fleet defence but nothing to overly trouble Hadler.

Adam Mann, who scored at the Kuflink Stadium, was thrown on as well and Chippenham had a couple of set-pieces blocked or steered away.

Fleet made a change of their own, Grant succumbing to an injury and it allowed for the fresh legs of Greg Cundle to try and stretch the home defence. Cundle certainly ran at them in an attempt to unsettle the back four but the heavy weather was taking its toll and before long both Taylor and Frempah, each with minor knocks, made way for Will Wood and Ben Chapman.

Goodman, too, was forced to battle on after a heavy challenge in increasingly deteriorating conditions that made any neat football almost impossible. And Goodman’s long ball forward on 73 minutes saw Puddy collide with his own centre-back, delaying the game for a period that was to ultimately add six minutes to the 90.

Fortunately for the Fleet, they got their noses in front eight minutes from the end. Adebayo-Rowling battled to retrieve possession out wide, feeding Martin inside. The skipper sized it up and sent in a high chipped pass that Goodman met, climbing above two defenders to loop a header over Puddy for the winner.

Chippenham tried to force matters in the final minutes, their best effort a Jones cross from the right towards the far post that was inviting for the home strikers but just too far ahead of them.

With six minutes of time added on, there was another biblical downpour but even that didn’t stop Fleet’s victory huddle at the final whistle as Kutrieb’s men made it seven points from nine in their last three games on the road.

EUFC: Hadler, Adebayo-Rowling, Taylor (Wood 69), Kahraman, Frempah (Chapman 74), Goodman, Egan, Paxman, Martin, Grant (Cundle 59), Bingham. Subs not used: West, Allen
CTFC: Puddy, Jones, Smerdon, Hamilton, Parselle, Gunner, Stearn (Mann 64), Hanks, Brunt (Zebroski 54), Ash, Russe. Subs not used: Bray, Phillips, Case


Man of the Match v Chippenham Town (a)

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