FOREST GREEN ROVERS 1-4 EBBSFLEET UNITED
Report by Allan Main
The Fleet grabbed a much-needed win in rainy Gloucestershire this afternoon as Liam Daish’s charges put the va va voom back into their drive for the top positions of the Blue Square Premier. With the home side sitting in sixth place, there was no room for error if the Fleet had any desire to get back in the mix and so it proved as the Fleet raced away with the victory in the second half.
But it was honours even in a first half where neither side could get a foothold in midfield and more often than not the play was long, direct and largely without flair. But the Fleet got off to the perfect start on just 3 minutes, Neil Barrett starting where he left off after Tuesday night’s fine performance and grabbing the quickest goal of the afternoon by rifling a shot past Ryan Robinson from just outside the box.
But any thoughts of enjoying the lead were banished inside two minutes when former Morecambe man Adriano Rigoglioso equalled Barrett’s strike, firing past a stranded Lance Cronin from Andrew Mangan’s pass.
The rangy Rigoglioso could have added a second when he struck hard and low with a shot on XX minutes, but Cronin did extremely well to dive down and get a hand to the ball. After that, the game lost much of its early excitement, with Fleet finding it difficult to stamp any authority on a game that tended to by pass their most influential players.
But all that changed shortly before half-time when Luke Moore showed great confidence in advancing down the right, cutting inside Darren Jones and shooting past Robinson to edge the Fleet in front.
The goal boosted the visitors and they looked more purposeful after the break with Daish introducing Ricky Shakes for George Purcell. Shakes’ running ability gave the Fleet a little more penetration and the winger’s low cross just minutes after the restart only just evaded Michael Gash as it flashed across goal.
The home side enjoyed a spell of pressure after that with their main danger coming from Kaid Mohamed who had so tormented the Fleet defence when he played for Torquay at Plainmoor last season and he forced Cronin into a smart save on 56 minutes and Simon Clist hit a shot at Paul McCarthy. Daish’s second substitution of the afternoon saw Craig Stone replace Stacy Long on the hour mark and the Fleet midfield started to get up a head of steam with Barrett the chief instigator of much of the new-found energy.
On 67 minutes, the Fleet extended their lead. Jamie Hand found space on the left and floated a teasing ball across the area which Gash converted with aplomb. The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Rovers and Cronin was largely untroubled as the 100 or so visiting fans anxiously watched the clock tick down.
They need not have worried for Daish still had another rabbit to pull out of his hat as Kezie Ibe entered the fray on 83 minutes and was barely on the pitch for a minute before he extended the lead still further. A Moore corner found Hand who launched a high ball into the box that only Ibe seemed to read and he hit home with his first touch.
There was a touch more drama left in the match, however, as Forest Green upped the pressure and won a penalty on 87 minutes when McCarthy was deemed guilty of handball. Mohamed’s spot kick was a decent one but Cronin – often equal to penalties in his time at the Fleet – knocked it round the post. Shakes could have equalled Fleet’s record 5-1 win at The New Lawn at the death but he shot just over from Ibe’s cross.
TEAM: Cronin, Ricketts, Opinel, McCarthy, Charles, Barrett, Hand, Long (Stone 61), Purcell (Shakes 46), Moore, Gash (Ibe 83). Subs not used: Mott,