RICKY SHAKES AND KEZIE IBE CONFIRM FLEET’S BLUE SQUARE PREMIER STATUS…
WEYMOUTH 0-2 EBBSFLEET UNITED
Ebbsfleet United confirmed their Blue Square Premier status for next season with a first-ever win at the Wessex Stadium that put their opponents deeper into the relegation mire.
With five changes from the side that lost at Histon, the Fleet were looking to make the most of the Terras’ 12-match run without a win and Liam Daish welcomed the return of skipper Paul McCarthy while also giving starts to Darius Charles, Michael West, Ricky Shakes and Stacy Long. An unfit Michael Gash sat it out again handing Kezie Ibe another chance to impress.
And as at Histon, the Fleet exploded out of the blocks and took a two-goal lead, this time inside 11 minutes. With only five minutes on the clock, Ricky Shakes was celebrating his fourth goal of the season tucking Giuseppe Sole’s assist after a good run from the on-loan Woking player into the bottom corner from the edge of the six-yard box.
Six minutes later Ibe grabbed his eighth in 11 starts, heading Leon Crooks’ cross past goalkeeper Adam Legzdins – a rare close-range double for a Fleet side whose main threat has rarely been from such distance in recent weeks.
Stephen Cooke had Weymouth’s first real effort on 25 minutes putting Stephen Reed’s floated corner wide of the post but the Fleet weren’t finding life too tough at the back with McCarthy and Charles commanding against the height of Fola Onibuje who spent most of the first 45 minutes giving away free-kicks, and one-time Fleet target Cliff Akurang.
Crooks had one last chance as the first half drew to a close, beating his marker to Long’s corner but the header was directed too high.
New Weymouth manager Bobby Gould sent his charges into the second-half fray with slightly more purpose and while the Histon comeback was no doubt in players’ and fans’ minds, in truth there was little danger from the home side. West flashed a shot wide on 67 minutes that Ibe was only inches from diverting into the net while Sole came close with a free-kick three minutes later, forcing Legzdins into a good save.
Weymouth, for their part, had just the one decent chance to get back into the game when Reed’s 87th minute shot drew a save from Cronin. Onibuje wasted too many of their forward movements straying offside, though he prodded a corner over the bar immediately after Reed’s effort and with that went the Terras hopes of climbing out of the bottom four.
Having secured his side’s status for another season, Daish was in jubilant form, commenting: “The lads deserve a pat on the back and a beer amongst themselves. This is a real achievement for them in very difficult circumstances off and on the pitch. They’ve done a professional job. I’m very pleased and proud.”
He and they can look forward to just 270 minutes more of this season, but with two games at home and the pressure off, perhaps enjoyment rather than hard graft can be the order of the day.
TEAM: Cronin, Crooks, Hawkins, McCarthy, Charles, Ricketts, West, Long, Sole (Yussuff 79), Ibe (Purcell 88), Shakes (Moore 88).
Subs Not Used: Mott, Pooley.