Fleet crawl over finish line

EBBSFLEET UNITED 1-0 CRAWLEY TOWN

Raphael Nade’s first goal for the club illuminates an otherwise average match as Ebbsfleet nick the three points.

EBBSFLEET UNITED 1-0 CRAWLEY TOWN

As televised games go, this probably wasn’t one for the purists as Crawley Town shaded the 90 minutes but the Fleet emerged triumphant in a game that lacked the spark to really bring it to life. With Liam Daish making just one change in a 4-4-2 line-up, Chukki Eribenne replacing John Hastings up front, it was clear the manager was looking for a more robust back line against a side that had scored 14 goals in four games.

Fleet made a bright start in the opening spell, with Eribenne making his presence felt and Raphael Nade testing the space down the left, but Crawley quickly settled allowing Thomas Pinault and Dannie Bulman to stamp their authority in midfield. Indeed it was Pinault’s pass forward on 15 minutes that threatened to expose the Fleet and, as Paul McCarthy misjudged his interception, he inexplicably handled the ball. Despite Crawley manager Steve Evans’ protestations next to the incident, McCarthy received only a yellow card as Sacha Opinel was covering.

Guy Madjo and Jamie Cook had a succession of attempts on the Fleet goal, the best of them on 41 minutes when Cook’s short corner to Pinault was threaded through to Madjo and he had two bites at the cherry before the ball was hacked to safety by a combination of Fleet defenders. Neither goalkeeper had an awful lot to do as any headers and shots that were forthcoming were invariably knocked wide of the upright or over the bar, as Nade’s 38th minute header demonstrated in a quiet half for the Fleet.

The home side came out after the break with a little more menace, but rarely threatened to trouble Ashley Bayes in the Crawley goal. Eribenne did well to latch onto a Stacy Long pass but he couldn’t quite connect with the ball cleanly enough as Bayes advanced to clear. That promising spell lasted less than 10 minutes, however, when Madjo somehow outfoxed three Fleet defenders on the edge of the penalty area and planted a shot wide of Lance Cronin which, but for the goalline interception by Sacha Opinel, was going straight in. With good movement from Madjo and strike partner Jon-Paul Pittman, together with the Fleet’s midfield penned far too deep in their own half, the game looked to be Crawley’s for the taking but they were as guilty of giving the ball away as the Fleet and, when chances did come their way, such as Madjo’s shot from 18 yards on the hour mark, the target again proved elusive.

Fleet’s hopes took a blow when Eribenne pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury following a challenge by Tyrone Thompson, and John Hastings entered the fray in his place. Madjo and Cook again had wild attempts while the otherwise quiet Mark DeBolla tried his luck from distance for the Fleet on 72 minutes with what appeared to be more of a kick in frustration than a genuine shot as the ball flew high over the bar. But five minutes later the Fleet grabbed an unexpected lead when Chris McPhee found space down the right and sent in the home side’s first decent cross of the night which, although somewhat low by the time it reached the far post, was met by a stooping Nade (pictured) and he headed past a stranded Bayes.

Fleet could have doubled their advantage four minutes later when Moore was upended by Ronnie Bull as he flew down the right wing. From DeBolla’s curling free kick, Nade towered above everyone else to power in a header that flew just too high of the top right-hand corner of the Crawley goal.

The visitors claimed a penalty on 85 minutes, as Long appeared to raise an arm inside the penalty area and caught a Crawley player with it, but the referee waved play on. As a last throw of the dice, Evans made a double substitution, taking off Cook and Pittman, but this only seemed to unsettle the visitors who actually looked less likely to score as a result and, but for two 90th-minute corners which Bayes came up for, Fleet held firm until the final whistle – much to the relief of the home fans.

TEAM: Cronin, McPhee, Opinel, Hawkins, McCarthy, Bostwick, Long, DeBolla, Moore, Eribenne (Hastings 59), Nade. Subs not used: Mott, Barrett, Ricketts, Luke Coleman.

Attendance: 932

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