CUMBERS MAKES LEAGUE DEBUT AS A SOLITARY SALISBURY GOAL SINKS FLEET…
SALISBURY CITY 1-0 EBBSFLEET UNITED
The Fleet suffered an FA Trophy hangover at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium tonight and re-entered the relegation zone as a result. In contrast to Stevenage’s late show last Saturday, the Fleet succumbed to an early goal this time around and never quite recovered enough to force the issue in a stop-start game that lacked much in the way of entertainment.
Liam Daish made four changes to his side, bringing Derek Duncan in at left back, dropping Giuseppe Sole to the bench to make way for John Martin while Luis Cumbers earned a start because of an ankle injury to Michael Gash. Jamie Stevens also won his debut, slotting in at right back, with Leon Crooks moving into more natural surroundings at the expense of James Smith.
But his side never had time to get used to their shape before Salisbury raced into a fourth minute lead. Goalkeeper James Bittner’s free kick was knocked down and on-loan Sean Clohessy – a teammate of Luis Cumbers’ at Gillingham – got in behind a slow-to-react Fleet defence and found himself with time to pick his spot before driving a firm shot beyond Lance Cronin. Six minutes later the home side spurned a further good chance, Luke Riddick getting on the end of a swift, sweeping move but his cross was hurriedly scrambled away by Crooks for a corner.
The Fleet had their own opportunities from corners but were denied mainly by the commanding presence of six-foot defender Jonathan Bass while Luke Moore’s off-target effort in the 18th minute was the first real sight of goal for Daish’s men. Clohessy and top scorer Charlie Griffin had two further efforts for Salisbury but they didn’t trouble Cronin too much and while the Fleet attempted to get going, the constant interruptions for free kicks and the lack of a clinical edge to set pieces had the fans wishing for the half-time whistle.
The second period saw little improvement with the home side content to sit back and invite the Fleet on to them, though there was barely a response from a jaded looking opposition who played as if Saturday had taken a lot from them. Indeed once the hosts gathered there was little threat forthcoming from the Fleet – even after James Smith’s introduction and a move to 3-5-2 – they stepped up a gear and could have forced a second goal with a little more application. Stacy Long did well to hook a clearance from Sean Clohessy’s excellent deep cross that outfoxed Cronin in the six-yard box on 69 minutes while Clohessy again delivered for Brian Dutton to head as Cronin missed the cross, but fortunately for the Fleet it bounced harmlessly wide.
The home side loosed off a couple of wilder off-target efforts and the best the Fleet could produce was an 82nd minute shot from substitute Giuseppe Sole after good work from Cumbers but that again was wide of the goal. It leaves the Fleet still searching for victory in a city where they haven’t triumphed since 1994 and, more pressing still, in the bottom four of the Blue Square Premier. Salisbury, meanwhile, all but eliminated their own relegation fears as they reached 49 points thanks to the three tonight.
TEAM: Cronin, Stevens (Smith 61), Duncan, Crooks, Charles, Ricketts (Sole 74), Long, Martin, Shakes (Slatter 81), Cumbers, Moore. Subs not used: Mott, Purcell