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Ebbsfleet United 2-1 Chelmsford City
Ebbsfleet United 2-1 Chelmsford City

Ten man Ebbsfleet United came from behind to win the National League South play-off final against Chelmsford City on Saturday.

 

A sell-out crowd of 3,134 saw Chelmsford come closest to scoring on 16 minutes when Shaun Jeffers’ shot from 20 yards deflected just wide.

After half-an-hour Robbie Willmott’s corner was met by Mark Haines at the far post. However, the central defender forced a fine save from Nathan Ashmore from close range.

City saw their chance continue as the ball bobbled around the box in a shaky few seconds for the hosts, but Bagasan Graham could not quite direct a shot goal-bound.

The visitors continued pressure into the final few minutes of the half but could still not capitalise on their ascendancy.

But the Clarets were handed a numerical advantage just before half-time when the referee brandished a red card to former City player Anthony Cook.

The pacey full-back lunged in for a challenge on midfielder Josh Rees and the referee had no option but to dismiss the defender for his reckless challenge.

Chris Dickson had a great chance to put City ahead in the opening minutes of the second half, but the experienced striker could only watch as his shot forced a save from the out-stretched Ashmore.

The hosts then had a chance of their own moments later when Sam Deering turned two defenders, but he had his long-range shot grabbed well by Ross Fitzsimons.

But City eventually took advantage of their numerical and possessional advantage on 55 minutes. Graham collected the ball from 30 yards, drove forwards before unleashing a powerful shot into the bottom corner.

The hosts went in search for an equaliser but Deering’s trickery in the final third could not muster anything.

But Fleet’s determination eventually came through on 73 minutes as Dave Winfield rose highest in a crowded box to head home following the home side’s multiple chances from set-pieces.

And the hosts went ahead just 3 minutes later as substitute Darren McQueen slid home from just a few yards and Stonebridge Road erupted.

Jeffers sent a late shot over – but Ebbsfleet held as the Clarets could not quite muster up any more chances.

The final whistle saw a full scale pitch invasion at Stonebridge Road and who can blame the Fleet fans after making it third time lucky in the play-off finals after missing out at the final hurdle for the previous two seasons.

They will join Bromley, Dover Athletic and Maidstone United in non league’s top tier next season as Kent football gets ever stronger.

 

Ebbsfleet United line up: Ashmore, Cook, Connors, McCoy, Winfield, Clark, Rance (McQueen 70), Drury, Kedwell (Powell H/T), McLean, Deering (Mambo 83).

Subs not used: Miles, Shields.

Chelmsford City line up: Fitzsimons, Haines, Graham (Buchanan 87), Porter, Bush, Spillane, Willmott, Rees (Church 82), Theophanous, Dickson, Jeffers (Daley 82).

Subs not used: Hill, Johnson.

Attendance: 3,134.

Pictures supplied by Dave Budden.


 
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