Harrogate Town 2-0 Fleet

Ebbsfleet slumped to defeat in front of the TV cameras as they were picked off by a fluid Harrogate Town, former Fleet winger Brendan Kiernan the architect of the downfall.

He scored both goals as Harrogate picked the Fleet on both of the occasions the visitors had looked to raise their game.

Fleet made three changes with debutant Josh Payne in alongside Alfie Egan for his first start and Gozie Ugwu, while out went Ayo Obileye, Josh Umerah and, of course, James Ball who had departed the club on Friday.

Harrogate welcomed back influential skipper Josh Falkingham after a couple of games out with an injury.

And the home side were swift to set about their visitors, Ryan Fallowfield and Josh Muldoon continually raiding the right flank as Fleet struggled to contain balls into feet along the edge of the box.

Jordan Holmes was straight into the action, pushing out a shot from close range after Jamie Grimes’ half-clearance. Moments later he had to spring out of his six-yard box to slide in at the feet of Mark Beck, a brave challenge considering a penalty might have been easily conceded. The rebound fell to a Town striker but that was deflected behind.

Fleet only gained respite on the counterattack and even that was a rarity to begin with. Egan’s reverse pass to Myles Weston on the right resulted in a cross that was just out of Alex Reid’s reach.

But Harrogate continued to dominate and could have led from a break in the 12th minute, Fleet’s defence in a state of confusion as a George Smith cross was left for Holmes and a Beck shot struck the post before the flag went up.

Tyler Cordner was booked on 19 minutes when he was forced to pull back Jack Muldoon and two minutes later Holmes made another excellent stop from Fallowfield who scythed through into the box.

Fleet did up their levels from the half-hour, finding their men with some controlled passing. Weston’s useful run took him past Connor Hall and his cross was just headed away from Reid by Fallowfield in the six-yard box.

The visitors did string more and more passes together and looked like they might hold Town at bay into half-time. But as Fleet cleared another Town attack and pushed upfield, a decent ball from midfield allowed Kiernan to spring the offside trap. He was pushed wide by Holmes and for a moment it looked as if he might have missed his chance but composed himself for a shot that hit the target.

Fleet were the first onto the attack in the second period, Ugwu’s shot winning a corner that Harrogate blocked on their goalline and scrambled away.

Ugwu had eyes on the target again on 51 minutes, running on to Egan’s header forward and hitting a dipping shot on the volley that James Belshaw tipped over. Weston then got the better of George Smith to fire in a low cross but once more the home side cleared.

Lawrie Wilson played a square ball to Frankie Sutherland who let fly with a good shot that just missed the target.

However, Fleet’s positive start to the half was undone on 59 minutes. Grimes’ clearance was intercepted and Harrogate recycled play back into the box. Again the bounce went their way as Fallowfield’s cross was deflected and Kiernan pounced for his second of the afternoon.

Fleet struggled to get much rhythm going after that and Wilson had to get tight on Kiernan in the box to prevent a hat-trick. At the other end, Adeloye’s tackle sent Weston through and he hit a good low drive past the foot of the post.

Harrogate had a couple of half chances to extend their lead as the second period rather petered out. Fleet were unable to break down the home back line on the occasions they did get within 20 yards and that was that as Harrogate took maximum points.

EUFC: Holmes, Wilson, Grimes, Cordner, King, Payne, Sutherland (Obileye 78), Egan (Adeloye 67), Weston, Reid, Ugwu. Subs: Biabi, Achuba, Palmer
HTFC: Belshaw, Fallowfield, G Smith, Burrell, W Smith, Hall, Falkingham Kiernan (Diamond 85), Muldoon, Bradley, Beck. Subs: Emmett, Brown, Stead, Cracknell, Diamond.
Attendance: 742 (47 EUFC)

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