Ebbsfleet had a mountain to climb as they were reduced to 10 men for the third match in succession against a side who extended their clean-sheet record to five matches and more than seven hours of football.
Josh Payne’s second-half dismissal after picking up two yellow cards within almost as many minutes made it easy for Harrogate to pick off the Fleet, who never really troubled James Belshaw’s goal once the visitors went in front.
With the original referee for the game Lee Collins having been replaced yesterday by James Durkin, the new man in turn rolled his ankle in the warm-up, leading to a quarter-hour delay as a qualified official was sought in the crowd.
Fourth official Kirsty Dowle stepped into Durkin’s shoes as the game eventually kicked off at 3.16pm.
Fleet went toe to toe with Harrogate in the opening exchanges and enjoyed a couple of advances into the visitors’ final third. A slip by Will Smith allowed John Goddard to feed Jamie Grimes with a ball down the left but his cross was snatched by Belshaw.
Jermaine McGlashan’s initial brightness troubled Warren Burrell and he got a ball into Josh Umerah but the Fleet striker was swiftly closed down.
It took Harrogate almost 15 minutes to register their first effort on goal, Jack Emmett’s drive from distance firm but into David Gregory’s arms.
Lawrie Wilson floated a searching cross into McGlashan’s feet but he was wrestled aside by Connor Hall and McGlashan again got on to Grimes’s long pass and whipped in a decent cross that ran clear.
Fleet continued to play on the front foot and from a corner Umerah’s effort was blocked, falling for Payne who curled an outswinging shot wide of the post.
On 26 minutes, Goddard’s persistence in chasing down Josh Falkingham on the edge of the Harrogate box dropped for Umerah whose shot nicked off the post on its way wide.
That was as good as it got for the Fleet, however, as Harrogate switched up a gear and began to assert themselves. They had the ball in the back of the net twice in three minutes, but both were ruled out.
The first came from a corner on 33 minutes when Wilson’s good positioning enabled him to sweep Alex Bradley’s effort away from the line. Falkingham followed up with a shot that Gregory could only parry to Jack Muldoon, who found the net but the flag was up.
Three minutes later Muldoon forced the ball over the line again but it was a clear foul by Jon Stead on Gregory as he rose to claim a cross.
That seemed only to annoy the visitors who pushed hard for a legitimate goal. And they got one on 38 minutes when Grimes’ clearance gained height but not distance and Hall was on hand to smack a clean volley past a helpless Gregory.
Fleet’s only response in what was left of the first-half was a curling free-kick from Payne that Belshaw gathered at the foot of his post.
It was pretty much the Harrogate goalkeeper’s last action of the game, though he did have to get down well eight minutes into the second period when Umerah’s low delivery into McGlashan was fired on target.
Harrogate were merely protecting their lead as Fleet failed to raise their game and it made for a scrappy, half-hearted affair that was really only enlivened by a flurry of cautions.
The first batch came on 55 minutes, Jack Diamond retaliating after a clash with Payne by the left touchline that saw both pick up cautions. And within two minutes, the two players came into contact again, Payne’s foul on the edge of the box far too soon after his previous. Still fresh in the referee’s mind, and with the unnecessary advice of Harrogate skipper Falkingham in her ear, she reached for a second yellow.
Fleet threw on all three substitutes at once but the game was put beyond them on 64 minutes. A slow build-up down the right reached Muldoon and he found the space to tuck a shot away at the near post for 2-0.
It could have been three moments later when Smith headed Bradley’s corner on to the top of the bar before Diamond, who had been fortunate to stay on the pitch for his earlier clash with Payne and then another incident where he deliberately blocked a free-kick while on a yellow, was substituted before the referee could get a chance to even up the numbers.
The final 20 minutes were devoid of action, Harrogate having done enough to win the game, Fleet shorn of ideas and fight. A couple more yellow cards merely rubbed salt in the wounds as Harrogate recorded their third 2-0 win in four games against the Fleet.
EUFC: Gregory, Wilson, Grimes, Ekpiteta, Obileye, Payne, Sutherland (Mekki 59), Goddard (Adeloye 59), McGlashan, Umerah (Ugwu 59). Subs not used: Dainkeh, Palmer
HTFC: Belshaw, Smith, Burrell, Hall, Kerry, Falkingham, Emmett (Harratt), Bradley, Diamond (Thomson), Muldoon (Kiernan), Stead. Subs not used: Gallacher, Cracknell