After a sending-off in Game One and a threadbare, out-of-position side in Game Two, Garry Hill almost felt like Fleet got their campaign under way today in terms of performance.
“It’s a silly thing to say but it was like our first game of the season,” he told BBC Radio’s Paul Francis. “We had a situation [in the other two games] where we were short on bodies and lose our skipper after eight minutes and then you have to move a midfield player into the back line, so it was a bit of a double whammy that situation. But a couple of new players have come in and it’s very encouraging.
“It’s only three games into the season but it was very encouraging by the whole team. How we’ve not got anything out of the game is very disappointing because I would have been pleased to get a point but on the chances we’ve had, we’re probably disappointed we’ve not got three points really. That’s how the game has been.”
But for the fourth-minute penalty, the Fleet boss could well have got the point(s) he craved but that early setback is the way it’s been for his side so far this season.
“It was not the ideal start, conceding a penalty against a very good AFC Fylde team and that was always going to be very tough for us. We found ourselves 1-0 down and [we produced] a very, very good response, there’s no doubt about that. We created some very good chances in the first half and I know Ashmore’s had to make two or three good saves, but to come in at half-time 1-0 down, it was a game where we did believe we could go on and win it. I think for long periods of the second half we’ve dominated and had our chances. We just ain’t got the ball in the back of the net and when things go against you, they go against you.”
And the manager hoped the travelling supporters were rewarded in part for their long journey, even if it wasn’t in points.
“It was a very good following from Ebbsfleet supporters making the long journey up here. They had a performance today for sure. I know they were proud to see a team out on the park showing what they want to see in respect of some good football in awkward conditions and the commitment of the team creating a lot of chances. I think you’ve seen a brand of football, effort, the commitment and chances we created out there and you have to take the encouragement before the game against Yeovil on Tuesday.”
Josh Umerah was handed his full debut and carved out a number of chances, with Hill thinking he’ll only improve with more minutes under his belt.
“We’re pleased with Josh today,” he said. “He’s come in up front and done very well. He’s a good player. When we get him fit, he’s very strong, very powerful and I think the understanding we had up there today with him and Gozie Ugwu was different class, and Johnny Goddard too, so we looked like a team today.”
Hill had hinted at the possibility of three at the back on Tuesday night but he and the squad were comfortable enough with their setup today.
“We’ve got [3-5-2] in the locker, but with having Jack King back in the team today and pushing Bally into midfield [I didn’t do it]. It didn’t get us points in one way but I think near enough everybody will walk away thinking we were very unlucky not to get at least a share of the points. That’s football, you have to keep battling hard but if you keep playing like that week in, week out, we’ll win a lot more games.
“When they name their goalkeeper as man of the match, that says a great deal as a compliment to us in how much he’s had to work hard today. He’s a good goalkeeper.
“It’s where it is, they’re a good side but I think we’ve showed today what we have too, that character and resilience [considering] where we are at the present time. We’re sitting where we’re sitting. We’ve not got off to the start that we’d have liked and of course there’s a lot of new players coming to the club but you have to keep battling hard.”