Ebbsfleet United manager Steve Brown praised his players’ reaction to Tuesday’s defeat against Chelmsford but was once again left frustrated by the goals return – and the performance of the stand-in referee, who denied Fleet a seemingly nailed-on penalty in the final seconds of Saturday’s draw against Boreham Wood.
“It was a good reaction [to Tuesday’s defeat],” Brown told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster. “I’m disappointed obviously we haven’t gone on to win, but how many times have I said that? I try not be critical of referees, it’s a difficult job – but that’s an absolutely stonewall penalty at the end, Anthony Cook driving at the full back. Everyone was expecting it, the supporters cheering, even their players stopped. How only one man in the ground can’t see that’s a penalty I just don’t understand. He was a replacement referee, but it was a very inadequate performance all the same.”
And Brown drew similarities to the Bath City game: “If you look at the stats, Boreham Wood had two shots on target, very similar to what Bath did. They came to frustrate, played a 4-5-1 system. Other than 15 minutes at the start of the second half when they were in the game, I didn’t sit on the sidelines worrying about them scoring at all. Aside from that it was just a case of trying to break down a very frustrating formation.
“Players’ confidence gets affected, they’re human beings. Strikers by their very nature are a little bit fragile like that. When they’re missing the target that confidence soon deserts them. I have to stick by them. I know we haven’t got the points return we deserve and we haven’t got the goals in the ‘For’ column that we deserve but we have to keep working on the training ground and turn these draws into wins.”
Touching on the hot topic – to supporters at least – of playing Stacy Long and Daryl McMahon in the same midfield, Brown was adamant it wasn’t a case of one or the other. “Can they play in the same team? Absolutely they can,” he explained. “These are decisions I have to make, do I go 4-5-1 myself and play a three-man central midfield? Michael Corcoran makes those decisions easier because he’s a natural central-sitting midfielder, I don’t really have another one. Stacy’s a very clever player, Daryl McMahon’s a very clever player and to suggest they can’t play in the same team – regardless of formation – is a non-starter.
“Stacy needs a run in the side and if he can perform at the level he did today and allows me to give him that run in the side, his fitness will get better and better.”