Bad day at office for the Fleet

Fleet succumb to defeat against a useful Stevenage despite Scott Tynan’s penalty save.

EBBSFLEET UNITED 0-1 STEVENAGE BOROUGH

The Fleet met their match in a determined Stevenage Borough at Stonebridge Road this afternoon as the visitors grabbed all three poinits in a convincing performance. With Scott Tynan (left) keeping his place between the posts, Liam Daish’s defence virtually picked itself, with only Peter Hawkins, Paul McCarthy and Michael Bostwick – stepping back from midfield – fit for the game.

Opposing manager Mark Stimson lined up in a 4-5-1 formation, with Adam Miller playing just behind danger man Steve Morison, a tactic which looked as if it would pack the midfield, but in truth Stevenage found the spaces they needed in the middle almost from kick-off. The Fleet began in a disjointed frame of mind which grew worse as the half wore on and after a lacklustre opening 20 minutes, it was the visitors who began to dominate. Fleet’s only real showing in that period was a Mark De Bolla free kick on eight minutes that was on target and heading for the top corner, but it lacked real power and Alan Julian gathered it with ease.

For the remainder of the half, the Fleet were chasing shadows as Stevenage passed the ball with aplomb, raiding down the flanks where Daryl McMahon and Craig Dobson looked constantly dangerous. Yet it was the Fleet who had the best chance on 28 minutes. With Ronnie Henry’s muscular approach making life difficult for Chukki Eribenne, it was the attacking midfielders who were looking more likely to hit the target, and indeed Stacy Long’s fine 30-yard swerving shot was goalbound until tipped over the bar by Alan Julian.

From the resulting corner, however, the Fleet were undone. As Bostwick attempted to control a cross, the ball was cleared to the left wing and McMahon romped away as Borough broke with speed. He eased past Chris McPhee and sent a cross behind the retreating Fleet defence where Craig Dobson was waiting at the far post to hit home the opening goal.

Bostwick attempted an immediate reply with a shot that bounced to the right of Julian’s post, but the Fleet hadn’t learned their lesson, and after Stuart Lewis had a chance go begging on 35 minutes, the visitors should have extended their lead three minutes later. In a carbon-copy move of their goal, Boro pressed forward quickly, Morison dancing through the defence which once again left the right wing unattended, and there was Dobson in an almost identical position but he somehow contrived to miss from eight yards out.

There was still time for the Fleet to reply and on the stroke of half-time they really should have. Danny Slatter and De Bolla combined down the right and whipped in a cross towards McPhee who expertly turned his marker in the penalty area but the finish was disappointing as having got himself into a fantastic position, he blasted high over the bar.

Stevenage came out in the second half looking even more purposeful and where the Fleet defence had at least been resolute if somewhat wayward in the first half, they looked messy for the opening quarter of the second. McMahon and Miller both had chances, the latter sending a shot across goal that Tynan palmed to safety, while former Grays midfielder John Martin sent a fierce drive against the post on 56 minutes. McMahon had another opportunity three minutes later when Tynan got in a mix-up coming out for the ball but luckily the Stevenage midfielder’s effort wasn’t too accurate.

On 63 minutes, the Fleet’s Danny Slatter tried his luck from distance and the hard-working Luke Moore pounced on Julian’s rebound but missed his footing when well-placed.

Daish decided to go for the kill, bringing Raphael Nade on and sacrificing Mark De Bolla but though Nade won a lot in the air, the Stevenage defence marshalled by Mark Arber were happy to pick up the pieces, with little second ball evident from the home side.

Ebbsfleet finally stepped up the pressure as the game entered the final 20 minutes, with three consecutive corners putting the visitors under the cosh. Ten minutes later and the home side really should have equalised. First Eribenne’s close-range shot was blocked by Julian and from the resulting corner, Bostwick powered in a header that looked goalbound until Julian again got in the way.

On 89 minutes things got worse for the Fleet following substitute Alistair John’s dubious tumble on the right flank. From the free kick, Stevenage piled forward and Morison and substitute Ollie Allen both had efforts blocked before Lewis’ stinging shot flashed across goal and hit McCarthy’s hand on the line. The referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty and brandished an immediate red card in the Fleet skipper’s direction.

Man-of-the-match Tynan gave the jubilant Boro fans behind the goal some cause for concern as he ably parried John Nutter’s spot kick and when the fourth official raised the board for five minutes of injury time, the noise level again increased. Fleet poured forward and had the visitors on the back foot but, aside from a Luke Moore stretching header, registered little of real danger and Stevenage clung on for a deserved three points.

TEAM: Tynan, Hawkins, McCarthy, Bostwick, Purcell, McPhee, Long, Slatter (Coleman 74), De Bolla (Nade 64), Eribenne, Moore. Subs not used: Cronin, Maskell, Starkey.

Attendance: 1,201

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