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Ebbsfleet United 0-1 Chesterfield
Ebbsfleet United 0-1 Chesterfield

Chesterfield left it late to claim the points this afternoon at the Kuflink Stadium as Armando Dobra finally breached the wall that Mark Cousins had built around himself after a string of superb saves that deserved a clean sheet, even if few would have denied Chesterfield the points.

Defender Chris Solly missed today’s match due to his suspension after last Saturday’s sending-off at Wealdstone while Franklin Domi was also suspended after running up the cautions. Those two enforced changes were part of seven the Fleet made, with Haydn White earning his first start.

Dominic Poleon, back from international duty, was booked inside three minutes before a low cross by Ryan Colclough was met by Michael Jacobs whose rising shot hit the bar and rebounded out to Liam Mandeville who couldn’t beat Cousins with the second effort on goal. Mandeville then found himself in a good position to strike on the rebound – Cousins denied him once again. The visitors were awarded another free-kick in the 14th minute as Mandeville sent in the delivery to find Tom Naylor, whose headed effort was just wide. 

The first chance for the Fleet arrived in the 22nd minute when Omari Sterling-James curled a ball towards goal and while it looked like it might be a repeat of his opener against York, this time the shot floated past the post. 

The momentum of the match dropped for a period with both sides attempting to maintain possession but Chesterfield began to dig ever deeper to up the pressure on the Fleet back line. The home side stood strong for the most part, however, as Chesterfield’s good work was let down by wayward shooting and control in the final third. Cousins still needed to be alert though and he turned Colclough’s low drive around the post.

The curtain closed on that not-so-eventful first half but Chesterfield imposed themselves further after the break. They started the second half the brightest forcing their former player Haydn Hollis to turn away a goalscoring opportunity for the Spireites with a header. The visitors came ever closer in the 55th minute to finding the breakthrough with a rolling effort from Jacobs bounding off the woodwork and out for a corner. Cousins, meanwhile, continued to keep the Fleet in the match, producing crucial save after save to keep the score goalless and demoralise the Spireites attack.

Jacobs had another strike from a free-kick which Cousins palmed away and he continued to provide a shot-stopping masterclass as Tyrone Williams, Will Grigg and Dobra all came away empty-handed. He was aided by a fine display in defence from Hollis as well, who was in the thick of every defensive battle. 

But Chesterfield eventually found the breakthrough in the 82nd minute with probably their scruffiest approach of the 90 minutes. Substitute James Berry whipped a ball from the left into the box to find Dobra – who Joe Martin accused of a foul on him off the ball – on hand to turn the ball out of Cousins’ reach and in to the huge relief of the travelling fans. 

The Fleet responded by going at Chesterfield with much more intent in the final 10 minutes pushed for an equaliser in the closing stages but couldn’t find the breakthrough they needed. Off the bench, Darren McQueen provided new legs down the right, with Ben Chapman and Josh Wright both coming close. And the late dismissal of Jacobs for deliberately running down the clock spurred Fleet on further, but to no avail.

EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill, Martin, Hollis, White, Cissé, Wright, Sterling-James, Tanner, Amoo, Poleon. Subs: Clifford, Coulthirst
CFC: Tyrer, Naylor, Grimes, Mandeville, Grigg, Jacobs, Colclough, Williams, Freckleton, Dobra, Jones
Subs: Palmer, Curtis
Attendance: 2,063

Image courtesy of Ebbsfleet United/Simon Lapwood