Garry Hill knows exactly where his Ebbsfleet side are misfiring at present and after three games without a goal, he knows he doesn’t need to spell it out.
“It’s not happening in the final third at the moment,” he told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster. “I’m not going to turn round and cane the forwards but the stats over the last three games don’t tell lies. We’ve all witnessed the games, we should have finished this off in the first game and the same on Saturday. If you don’t take those chances when you’re on top, you always leave yourself in an area of danger and get punished. We’ve come here tonight and got punished. We know where we’ve got to work hard and that is putting the ball in the back of the net.”
And the manager, in his 10 days in the Fleet hotseat, has no complaints about his side’s attitude in training or on matchdays – particularly given his defence’s recent good showings.
“The application, work rate, commitment of every player since we’ve been here, whether it’s training or playing, has been first class in every way or form,” he said. “But that is the dividing line. If you want to be part of a successful football club, there’s times in matches when you have take them opportunities when they come along because if you want to be there or thereabouts and pushing on in competitions, you must take chances. You analyse it over the three games we’ve been here, we haven’t scored. That says a lot, because we’ve created enough. Defensively we’ve looked very solid.
“We’ve seen enough in 10 days. Of course, there’s restrictions and we’ve got to duck and dive and move certain things around. I think defensively, midfield, we’ve shown already that we can defend properly, I think we’ve got ourselves into areas to hurt teams. I’m not disappointed with the performances. I’d be the first to turn round [and say if I was]. One thing about me, I’m honest. I will have a team working hard and I think the team are working hard. But it will always come down to winning games, it’s down to that final third. And we’ve had opportunities to win those games and we haven’t taken them.”
Fleet held out until the 66th minute of this First Round replay and with two sides who hadn’t conceded a goal in more than 270 minutes of football, Hill knew it would be a tight affair.
“I thought the first goal would always be an important goal tonight,” he said. “We came here with a lot of hope and belief. They started a little bit brighter. I’ve noticed, not only tonight, but over the first 10 days of being at the club, decision-making and lack of quality in the final third has been very costly to us in games. Good luck to Cheltenham, I take nothing away from them, but we shouldn’t really have had to come here tonight. That’s not being rude to them. We should already be in the Second Round because we had enough opportunities and chances in the first game at home but not the quality to finish that off. Boreham Wood on Saturday, we absolutely battered them for 25/30 minutes. We had four or five great chances and only worked the goalkeeper once.
“The little lad’s come on [substitute Alex Addai], we knew he was a dangerous weapon when he played down at our place. He’s got the ball through Jack Payne’s legs, whether it’s done on purpose or not, but there was no way the miscue was done properly. He’s tried to put it in the box, miscued and the boy’s headed it in. That happens. Where you are so late in the game and then you lose a player, that don’t help. We’ll wait for the referee’s report and go from there. But it looks like [Sam Magri’s] got sent off for dissent (pictured above), that doesn’t help us not only tonight but going forward.”
Magri’s impending one-match suspension is added to an injury to Kenny Clark that saw him drop to the bench, while a yellow card for Chris Bush mean he’s one of a few players inching closer to the five cautions for suspension (though the cut-off date at the end of November for those is fortunately fast approaching).
“Kenny Clark wasn’t 100 per cent fit,” said Hill. “He’s been playing very very well… I wouldn’t have been changing the back line tonight, we’ve had three clean sheets, it wouldn’t have got changed. He got here, we know he was a little bit tight in respect of his calf. We’re not going to win the FA Cup and I don’t want to lose a player like Kenny Clark. Being fair to him, he talked to the physio and he said it weren’t right. He didn’t feel right and he didn’t want to let the team down and that’s the good pro that he is. But Jack King’s a good player as well. I’ve had Jack King before [at Woking] he got a transfer to Preston. Defensively, I’m very happy and there’s a very good base there to work with.”
Ebou Adams and Myles Weston return to the fray this weekend with FC Halifax Town — victorious in the Emirates FA Cup tonight – the visitors and that gives Hill a little more to work with.
“There’s never a selection issue, it’s a nice problem,” he said. “Not everyone has started in every game and we’re not frightened to make changes. I’ve only had the team for three games and you have to have a base. First of all, that’s a complete team of workers and I think we’ve had that. And solidness in the defence and I think that’s here. There’s players in midfield who are very good players and I think we have good players up top. All football teams at all levels go through a barren spell. We’ve got to be positive and work with what we’ve got.”
Listen to the interview below.