Ebbsfleet lost their unbeaten record in the league as last year’s champions Maidstone United took the points in an entertaining encounter at Stonebridge Road where, despite the heavy overnight rain, the playing surface was again in excellent condition.
Ebbsfleet started the game well and had an early chance on 3 minutes when Casey Johnson made a good run down the left to the byline before sending in a low cross that flew across the area to the far post where a stretching Jeffrey Nguede could only turn wide. The home side then nearly scored through route one football as Fleet keeper Rhys Hughes launched a long kick upfield that was not dealt with by the Stones defence and the ball fell to Johnson wide right of goal and he pulled the ball back to Caleb Bearman-Dyce on the edge of the box but his shot flew straight at Stones keeper Will Godmon.
After these early chances the game settled down into a midfield battle with Leo Mazzone and George Della Valle doing well for the home side and Charley Robertson and Charlie Munnery looking good for the visitors. It was the Stones who had the next chance on 27 minutes when Harris Rodgers sent in a low cross from the right that was turned over by Liam King.
However, a minute later the visitors took the lead when Robertson made a strong forward run down the middle before laying the ball off to his left to Jack Jeffrey just inside the area. Jeffrey took a touch before cutting onto his right and curling the ball home high to the left of Hughes into the top corner of the net. Just before half time Fleet might have drawn level but for a fine save from visiting keeper Godmon. Shilow Tracey made a good run down the right before cutting into the box and firing a low shot that Godmon blocked down to his left with the rebound falling to Johnson who had his close range shot charged down by a Stones defender for a corner.
The visitors started the second half brightly and nearly increased their lead when a good passing move saw Matt Rose find King down the left and he quickly moved the ball onto Jeffrey who made space well in the box but his shot flew narrowly wide before a minute later Robertson made a good forward run before firing narrowly wide.
On 56 minutes King hit a 25-yard free kick that Hughes saved well diving low to his right for a corner. Minutes later the Stones scored their second from a penalty after Aidan Hayes was brought down in the area by Oliver Boulding and King stepped up and dispatched the spot kick low to the right of the diving Hughes. Shortly afterwards Jeffrey fired a long range effort straight at Hughes as Fleet struggled to carve out any goal scoring chances against a resolute Stones team.
A good passing move on 82 minutes nearly saw the home side get a consolation goal as substitutes Louie Allen and Andre Trenton exchanged passes on the edge of the box putting Allen through on goal but he shot narrowly wide. A minute later the visitors might have scored a third as a long clearance was not dealt with and fell to Rodgers who raced through on goal but he sent his lob over the advancing Hughes and the bar.
However, Fleet did not learn from this let-off as the Stones got a third on 85 minutes when another long ball forward fell to Jeffrey on the wide right of the area and spotting Hughes racing off his line to narrow the angle he quickly sent a low shot home to the right of the Fleet keeper. This was not the end of the action as minutes later Fleet nearly scored when Karn Miller-Neave from wide left floated a free kick into the box to the far post where substitute Jack Barnes sent a neat cushioned header back across goal to Johnson who had his close-range volley superbly turned away by Godmon diving to his left for a corner.
TEAM: Hughes, Boulding, Miller-Neave, Della Valle, Denny, Stewart, Bearman-Dyce, Mazzone, Nguede, Tracey, Johnson. Subs: Barnes, Bowers, Trenton, Allen, Salter, Taderera, Crean-White