Ebbsfleet United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Neil Barrett struck the winning goal for Ebbsfleet United after 41 minutes to end a five game losing streak in the League for the Kent side. Diamonds failed to create much in the way of chances in the first 45 minutes, while the second half was marred by the dismissal of defender Simon Downer for a poor challenge on Luke Moore. The melee that followed saw both managers sent from their dugouts as tempers flared.

Since Diamonds exit from the FA Trophy at Torquay last weekend, Garry Hill had brought in loan signing Danny Broadbent from Huddersfield Town, and he started up front with Michael Rankine. In midfield, Justin Cochrane dropped down to the bench, while Rob Wolleaston had failed to recover from a hamstring injury. Yannick Bolasie was not named in the squad. This gave the opportunity for Andy Burgess to return to central midfield with a specially adapted face mask to protect his eye injury, while Jake Beecroft was recalled. At the back, Simon Downer replaced Michael Corcoran.

Fleet’s poor run in the League had only been interrupted with a couple of wins in the FA Trophy, and manager Liam Daish made four changes to the side which beat Stalybridge Celtic on Tuesday evening. Having made two loan signings from Wycombe Wanderers on Friday, and both Leon Crooks and Derek Duncan were brought in to bolster the back four. Neil Barrett returned to midfield, while Luke Moore partnered Michael Gash up front. Darius Charles (ankle) and Paul McCarthy (back) remain sidelined.

Ebbsfleet kicked off towards the Diamond supporters as both sides looked to improve on recent form. In the opening ten minutes, Jamie Hand came close to getting a shot away on goal after a quickly taken free kick by keeper Lance Cronin, but Chris Hope blocked the danger. At the other end, Hope’s header from a Marcus Kelly free kick lacked any power to cause the home defence problems.

Fleet looked more dangerous as the half progressed with Diamonds unable to create any openings for the front two. On 19 minutes, Michael Gash headed wide from Luke Moore’s cross, while Stacy Long’s fierce 25 yard shot went inches wide of the upright. Although under pressure, Diamonds defence did look solid as Gash sent another long range effort wide and just before the half hour point, Purcell went wide again from another Moore cross. Diamonds tried to break out on a couple of occasions but each time, the counter attack fizzled out. On 31 minutes, Purcell was fouled on the edge of the Diamonds penalty area, but Stacy Long sent the free kick over the bar without troubling keeper Dale Roberts.

It always seemed more likely that it would be the home side that went in front and on 41 minutes, they did just that as Luke Moore sent the ball in from the left. After a touch from Stacy Long, Dale Roberts was left wrong footed as Neil Barrett slotted the ball home from 6 yards. Just before the half time whistle, Barrett’s header forced a fine save from Roberts, although the lineman’s flag was already raised for offside.

 

Half time: Ebbsfleet United 1 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

 

Diamonds tried to get back into the game as the second half commenced but they were penalised for some strong challenges, with Lee Tomlin, Curtis Osano and Michael Rankine all receiving cautions. Rankine almost got a decent run on goal early on, but Fleet captain James Smith did well to get back and divert the ball away for a corner. Simon Downer went just wide from the corner in Diamonds best chance of the game. Fleet were still stronger coming forward with Roberts clearing from Gash on the hour.

Lee Tomlin’s corner on 64 minutes was touched on by Chris Hope – Curtis Osano being unable to turn the ball towards goal. Garry Hill made all three substitutions on 69 minutes in a bid to liven things up. Neil Cousins, Sam Smith and Michael Corcoran replaced Rankine, Beecroft and Broadbent, but it was still the home side making the running with Michael Gash attempting to lob Roberts, then sending a header over the bar.

Diamonds chances of taking a point away from the game got that little bit harder on 81 minutes, when Simon Downer went in hard on Luke Moore close to the home dugout. While the referee debated whether the challenge was worthy of a yellow or a red card, there was a mass melee involving the Ebbsfleet substitutes, the management and a couple of the Diamonds players nearby. Garry Hill also got involved as the fourth official tried to calm things down. In the end, Downer was shown a red card, while Liam Daish, his assistant Alan Kimble and Garry Hill were all sent to the stands.    

With seven minutes of time added on, it was Ebbsfleet who looked more dangerous in the closing moments. Ricky Shakes, on for Stacy Long, shot just wide while Barrett came close to nipping in at the near post, but the ball stuck under his feet. Jamie Hand also fired over from the edge of the area.

Full time: Ebbsfleet United 1 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

 

So Fleet’s poor run of results in the League came to an end as Diamonds never really got out of first gear. The home keeper Lance Cronin was never troubled with Lee Tomlin and Marcus Kelly unable to make use of the left and right flanks to allow the new strike partnership to flourish. On the plus side, Andy Burgess came through the 90 minutes well and was Diamonds man of the match. Still without a win since Christmas, Garry Hill will be hoping for a better performance next Friday evening (23rd) when they take on Forest Green Rovers at Nene Park.

 

Teams:

Ebbsfleet United: Cronin, Crooks, Smith(c), Long (Shakes 87), Gash, Stone, Barrett, Purcell, Moore, Hand, Duncan.

Subs not used: Mott, Pooley, Slatter, Ibe.

Rushden & Diamonds: Roberts, Osano, Hope, Downer, Robinson, Broadbent (Corcoran 69), Burgess(c), Rankine (Cousins 69), Tomlin, Beecroft (Smith 69), Kelly.

Subs not used: Day, Cochrane.

Goals: Barrett 41 (1-0).

Booked: Tomlin 52 (foul); Osano 60 (foul); Rankine 62 (persistant fouls); Hand 76 (foul), Duncan 90+5 (foul).

Sent off: Downer 83 (serious foul play).

Referee: Mr G.Jerden (Essex)

Attendance: 1121 (95 away).

By Dave Mason

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