Fleet 0 Farnborough 3

Tom Phipp plays in goal for 89 minutes after Preston Edwards is sent off…

Ebbsfleet United crashed to defeat this afternoon after putting up stern resistance in a game that was an uphill struggle almost from the kick-off. And for Tom Phipp, a season that has already been something of a storybook affair took an unexpected twist as he played 89 minutes between the posts after Preston Edwards’ early red card.

Liam Daish recalled Clint Easton for this second so-called ‘six-pointer’ in as many weeks and like that one at Dover, Fleet suffered a back-pass calamity early on.

This time, however, it was straight from the kick-off as Ryan Blake got caught in possession on the edge of his box and his tame back-pass was never going to reach Preston Edwards, allowing Kezie Ibe to nip in and round the Fleet goalkeeper, who brought him crashing to the ground. The referee had little choice but to issue what was probably Stonebridge Road’s earliest ever dismissal and, without a substitute goalkeeper for one of the first times this season, Tom Phipp got the nod to go in goal.

His first touch was almost an heroic parry of Bradley Bubb’s penalty but the spot kick had just enough power to get over the line and the Fleet were left with a mountain to climb and a rookie ‘goalkeeper’ to defend. Phipp’s cause wasn’t helped by some heart-stopping back passes and defending from the players in front of him as a shellshocked Fleet struggled initially to come to terms with the loss of Edwards.

But the home side eventually settled into a rhythm and after Phipp had gathered a few crosses from the air and Farnborough seemed content to sit on their lead rather than pepper the Fleet goal with speculative shots, it was the 10 men who proved to be the more likely attacking force.

Calmed by the controlled presence of Ram Marwa in midfield and the strong, pacy surges of Ashley Carew and Conor Okus, Fleet had Farnborough on the back foot for much of the half. Carew sent a low free kick wide of the post, Okus clipped the bar with a rising, long-range shot while Marwa, Calum Willock and Craig Stone all lofted shots either high or wide of the goal.

Midway through the half, the Fleet were convinced they should have had a penalty of their own when Blake jinked into the box and crossed for Ricky Shakes who appeared to be shoved as he dived to head just wide. Minutes later, Okus and Carew combined to hoodwink the Farnborough defence from a free kick, Okus switching direction and sending a low, curving shot to the foot of the post that goalkeeper MIchael Jordan only just got a hand to.

Winning the corner count, Fleet continued to play the ball neatly, making their passes count and Farnborough really only had one more effort of note when Ibe got on the end of a crossfield pass from Dale Binns and though he cleared the Fleet defence, Phipp raced out to thwart him with an unorthodox – at least for a goalkeeper – tackle.

The home fans couldn’t really have asked for more from their team under the circumstances and Fleet remained resolute for the early part of the second half. Marwa led from the front, surging through midfield as Farnborough backed off him but his shot was wide of the upright as another chance eluded the luckless home side.

The visitors were making better use of the channels as the half wore on and it was from their left side that they eventually fashioned a goal to settle their nerves. It came on 61 minutes after Binns beat Stone to a ball on the halfway line. His long ball found Ibe in space and the former Fleet striker rasped a shot over the head of Phipp and into the net.

It was tough on the Fleet, as was Farnborough’s third six minutes later when Ibe put Paul Booth through on goal and he got space to run at Phipp and tuck a shot away for 3-0.

Phipp made one more valiant contribution late on, getting a fingertip to Binns’ powerful shot from inside the box that gave Farnborough their one and only corner of the game but by then the contest was well and truly over.

Boro could claim a professional job, having sat back and struck late on to make sure of the game, though Phipp’s afternoon was curiously trouble-free but for the three goals and the Fleet will have been disappointed not to have taken on their promotion rivals with a full side.

TEAM: Edwards, Stone, Blake (Duncan 70), Okus (West 61), Easton, Lorraine, Carew, Marwa, Willock, Shakes (G Williams 70), Phipp. Subs not used: Pooley, Howe.
Att: 990

Vote for your man of the match [ HERE ]. Ricky Shakes won Tuesday’s vote.


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