If the lack of goals under Garry Hill was becoming any sort of weight on the new manager’s shoulders, it was well and truly lifted in a dominant Fleet display as they brushed aside FC Halifax Town at the Kuflink Stadium. It was Fleet’s seventh win in eight home games over Halifax and equalled the 4-0 best-ever result against them 13 years ago. And for Ebbsfleet fans, it was the most convincing league win they’d seen on home soil since the same scoreline against Guiseley almost a year ago.
Garry Hill had promised changes and he made them in his first league game at the Kuflink Stadium, with Michael Cheek, Myles Weston and Lawrie Wilson coming in, while Luke Coulson, the injured Sean Shields and suspended Sam Magri made way. With just one win on the road, the visitors weren’t adventurous at all in the opening stages and Fleet took the initiative without letting up for the entirety of the game.
The tone was set in the opening two minutes when Fleet played some excellent keep-ball football and Halifax barely got a touch as Corey Whitely showed some real energy and flair, zipping around up and down the pitch with incredible workrate. He did ever so well to wriggle away from Matty Brown’s challenge on four minutes and thread a pass to Weston but the winger delayed a shot and Halifax regrouped.
It was Weston’s turn to play supplier eight minutes later with a quality cross from the right that hung in the air for Danny Kedwell but he directed a header wide. And Kedwell had another effort on 16 minutes, holding off a defender with his back to goal before hooking an effort unsighted towards the top corner that goalkeeper Sam Johnson had to stretch to reach.
Ebbsfleet continued to dominate, Andy Drury always looking for an opening, and the goal their play deserved arrived on 24 minutes. Chris Bush sent a long throw into the box and the visitors switched off, allowing Cheek to steal in and poke it past a marooned Johnson. There was plenty of discussion as to which part of Cheek’s anatomy did the poking, with Halifax remonstrating about handball, but the goal stood.
Nathan Ashmore was a spectator for the entire half and when he did have to leap off his line, it was only to ensure that Josh Staunton’s 30-yard drive went wide of the target. Another Bush throw on 34 minutes dropped inside the box and a chance opened for Whitely but he got his angles confused and blasted low of the left-hand post.
Just as Fleet looked to have taken their foot off the gas a touch, goal number two arrived. A foul on Jack Payne on the edge of the box five minutes before half-time was the catalyst and with Bush, Kedwell and Weston standing over it, Jack King offered some lengthy advice before taking up a position in the wall. Whether that advice was ignored, who knows, as Bush with barely a stride forward floated a shot high to the other side of the wall and into the top corner.
Cheek could have added two more before half-time as he fought through the challenge of three players only to see an effort blocked and then he directed a header at Johnson before Halifax, glad of the respite, survived through to half-time.
They didn’t survive much beyond it, however, as Fleet extended their lead two minutes after the restart. Kedwell battled for space and powered a shot down the middle that Johnson pushed away. Whitely was on to it and went down under a challenge, before Cheek tried his luck and he too was felled. That second tackle was too much for the referee and he awarded a penalty which Kedwell confidently despatched for 3-0.
Fleet controlled the game without too much effort thereafter. Kedwell and Cheek were feeding off each other well and the former flicked on an effort for the latter that Halifax just about cleared to safety.
Cheek’s second should have arrived on 63 minutes when he showed pace and poise to keep his balance ahead of two covering defenders. He rounded the goalkeeper and seemed certain to roll the ball home but he slipped at the crucial instant and although the momentum of the ball seemed to suggest it might cross the line, Halifax were able to get it away.
There was little at the other end to trouble the Fleet, with Dave Winfield mopping up as Dayle Southwell’s shot was driven low into the box and Ashmore even had to create some work for himself by hoisting the ball upfield to Sanmi Odelusi to send back into the Fleet’s goalkeeper’s arms via an attempted lob.
Fleet continued to try their luck for a fourth. Payne was on to a quickly taken Weston free-kick but saw his effort blocked from 10 yards, then Kedwell controlled a delivery with his chest before firing narrowly wide.
And that deserved fourth finally arrived in time added on. Bush’s free-kick from the right was floated to the back post where Winfield’s downward header bounced high to the opposite post where Cheek was lurking to nod into an unguarded net.
EUFC: Ashmore, Wilson, Bush, Winfield, King, Payne, Drury (Adams 67), Weston (Graham 74), Whitely, Kedwell (Allassani 79), Cheek. Subs not used: Miles, Coulson.
FCHT: Johnson, Hanson, Sellers, Clarke, Brown, Staunton, Kosylo, King, (Edwards 59, Odelusi 75), Maher, Southwell, Preston. Subs not used: Duckworth, Rowley, Skarz.