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Ebbsfleet United 2-0 Dover Athletic
Ebbsfleet United 2-0 Dover Athletic

A goal in each half was enough to put Ebbsfleet United into the FA Cup Third Qualifying Round as a second victory and clean sheet against Dover Athletic kept home fans’ interests well and truly alive in Tuesday’s draw.

Fleet never really looked in trouble in a game they controlled and the only question was when the opening goal would arrive, inevitably Dominic Poleon answering that question just before half-time descended.

Dennis Kutrieb named five changes for this cup tie while Dover added a further ex-Fleet face to their starting lineup in Reece Grant to add to Lee Martin and Jake Goodman.

Fleet forced a couple of useful set-pieces in the early minutes and Darren McQueen drew a good save out of Stuart Nelson after only three minutes and the Fleet’s speedy wide man drew some early punishment, Lee Martin fortunate to escape a 10th minute booking for hauling him down. From the free-kick out of that, Haydn Hollis sent a header narrowly wide.

Fleet were in no real hurry while dictating the bulk of the play, content to spread the ball around and probe for an opening – which Dover succeeded in closing off.

Chances weren’t flowing but Josh Wright and McQueen combined for Bingham in the box on 27 minutes, but he had little time to get a shot away before he was crowded out by several Dover defenders.

Fleet’s gameplan was interrupted with an injury to Kieran Monlouis, requiring Craig Tanner’s involvement earlier than might have been intended. But the breakthrough came from the midfield berth five minutes from half-time, Hollis picking Poleon out in a little space and in classic fashion, the top scorer hit double figures for the season with his 10th of the campaign courtesy of a smart, powerful shot.

Poleon might have made it 11 goals for the season with the very next attack, Tanner’s high delivery dropping behind the Dover back line but the visitors recovered that one to clear. And just on the whistle he had another long-range effort after Chris Solly robbed Luke Baptiste, requiring Nelson to get down behind to save.

Tanner created the first couple of Fleet chances after the break, finding both Bingham and Poleon but both times Nelson made the save. The Fleet substitute then chose to go it alone when he almost snuck a corner in at the far post on 51 minutes but it floated just past the upright. He tried the same trick three minutes later and four minutes after that once again but the spectacular didn’t quite happen and the ball stayed out on all three occasions.

Dover’s best chance came just past the hour mark when Myles Judd did well to cross under pressure and Mitch Brundle met it at the far post but Fleet did just enough to unsettle him. Moments later Cousins had to save from Luke Baptiste and it needed smart defending from Bingham to keep the resulting corner from ruining Fleet’s lead.

The home side had to withstand plenty of manhandling from Dover and both Lee Martin and Baptiste found themselves in the book as the referee had to keep a lid on things, particularly with Grant attempting to rile Jombati and Hollis.

Fleet fans were compelling their side to shoot when Poleon got away on the break on 72 minutes. Blocked on his route to goal, he passed wide to Tanner who in turn found Wright but his shot was charged down and sent behind.

Bingham went close with a header from the corner that shaved the post but while his luck wasn’t in, the next corner on 74 minutes produced the goods. Whereas Bingham’s chance was well defended, this time it was Jombati given too much space and he gobbled up the high ball to head it beyond Nelson for the all-important second goal of the afternoon.

You’d have put money on Poleon adding a third four minutes later when he rampaged away through the middle on the break but his shot went to the left of the post as eager Plough Enders tried to entice it in.

Substitute Toby Edser and at the other end Lee Martin had shots seen off before Poleon capitalised on a slip in the Dover defence to tee up Bingham as he sped along in support but the No.9’s shot went agonisingly wide – yet despite the lack of a third goal to match the previous game against Dover, home fans will have gone home very happy with that ninth win in a row.

EUFC: Cousins, Jombati, Martin, Hollis, Solly, Wright, Monlouis (Tanner 34), Chapman (Paxman 77), McQueen, Bingham, Poleon.

Subs: Sterling-James, N’Guessan, O’Neill, Coulthirst

DAFC: Nelson, Judd, Krasniqi (Wilkinson 77), Goodman, Brundle, Higgs, Pavey, Martin, Sterling, Baptiste (Wanadio 70), Grant (Kandi 70).

Subs: Paxman, Moses, Carney, Byford

Attendance: 1,057