The Fleet took full advantage of their later kick-off and made the most of earlier defeats for their rivals by polishing off the points come 4.45pm, thanks to a pair of second-half goals.
Greg Cundle broke the deadlock on the hour mark and skipper for the day Rakish Bingham provided surety 10 minutes later as a stubborn Slough side eventually bowed to the domination and pressure. Fleet could have added to the scoreline either side of their two goals but Dennis Kutrieb was more than happy post-match to chalk up the three points that returned his side to the summit.
Ebbsfleet began the game with the same change that was enforced on them against Fleetwood Town in the second-half last week, Joe Martin coming in for Chris Solly, but otherwise it was the expected lineup against a Slough side shorn of ex-Fleet man John Goddard amongst others.
As a bitterly cold afternoon ushered in the first fixture of December, the Slough and Fleet fans in the Plough End warmed things up with some hearty noise levels early on. Toby Edser had a half-chance from Luke O’Neill’s cutback, with a Christian N’Guessan run through the box and a Bingham effort at the far post sent behind for a corner all in the opening 10 minutes.
Slough’s first venture forwards shortly after that saw Aaron Kuhl fight off Cundle to deposit a shot into the side netting. Fleet continued to press around the box, Tanner firing a diagonal shot just over before Edser got behind the back line but saw his delivery towards Bingham cut out in the six-yard box.
Bingham couldn’t quite get to a Cundle run and delivery on 30 minutes as Joe Dandy cleared it off his toes before another Cundle run moments later presented Fleet with their best opportunity, play spreading wide to Omari Sterling-James whose shot was on target but turned aside by Rhys Forster. The goalkeeper then had to watch Cundle send a low drive just past the post as the home side tried to step up the pressure.
Edser, spearheading the centre of midfield, drew a diving save from Forster on 36 minutes but Slough succeeded in frustrating the home players and fans as they shut up shop through to the break.
Fleet had two shouts for a penalty in the opening six minutes of the second half, first when Sterling went down under a Guy Hollis challenge and then with a little more conviction when Sterling and Tanner combined and the ball seemed to bounce back off a Slough hand.
The red shirts might have thought luck wasn’t with them on 56 minutes when Cundle’s injection of pace down the left supplied Poleon and he stabbed his shot on target only to see it saved five yards out, Edser slipping on the loose ball before he could follow up.
The Fleet No.17 hit another solid opportunity over the bar as a succession of efforts were blocked or just sent wide. But having seen one or two such shots head off target, the ever reliable Cundle broke the deadlock on the hour mark, his usual position cutting in from the left providing the launchpad after a good exchange between Bingham and Martin for a shot arrowed into the bottom corner.
That released any angst the home side may have experienced and the home fans bayed for a second that would make sure of the game. And sure enough it came via the skipper’s boots.
Bingham had gone close to making it 2-0 before he did just that 10 minutes after Cundle’s opener. Sterling got the space down the right after an exciting run at the Slough defence to fling in a mid-height delivery and the skipper latched on to it to rifle beyond Forster.
Two-nil might have been three in the closing stages when substitute Franklin Domi must have wondered what footballing gods are preventing him from finding the back of the net. As against Fleetwood last week, the former QPR youngster hit the target with a shot that seemed goalbound but smacked off the post and a follow-up header was missed.
Fellow sub Ben Chapman found time to send in a couple of crosses and he was on the end of a delightful pass from Tanner over the Slough defence but the Fleet’s player of the year was unable to slide the ball past the oncoming Forster.
Those two missed opportunities mattered little as Fleet made it to 45 points and still enjoy games in hand over their rivals with a big clash at Worthing upcoming.
EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill, Martin (Domi 76), Hollis, N’Guessan, Edser, Sterling-James (McQueen 71), Cundle (Chapman 79), Tanner, Bingham, Poleon. Subs: Jombati, Coulthirst
STFC: Forster, Jackman, Hollis, Dandy (Kayani 45), Togwell, Matshazi, Chentouf, Hunt, Davies, George (Woodhouse 74), Kuhl (Sole 82). Subs: Jeanes
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