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Ebbsfleet United 5-0 Hungerford Town
Ebbsfleet United 5-0 Hungerford Town

Fleet bid farewell to the Vanarama National League South with a result that set the seal on a perfect season, breaking and equalling a few more records in the process.

A Toby Edser hat-trick helped Dennis Kutrieb’s champions break the club goalscoring record of 109, previously held by the 1957/58 Southern League-winning squad.

The 32nd win also broke the 20-year-old club record for wins, highly appropriate as in the crowd were manager Andy Ford and several of his players from that era. And win number 32 also equalled Newport County’s record for the division set in 2009/10 as well as equalled their points total of 103.

In terms of lineup before the kick-off, Fleet deployed Darren McQueen in a position further forward and more reminiscent of his old berth here at the club as he accompanied Shaq Coulthirst in attack.

But it was the player just behind him who created the first headlines as Fleet’s very first attack within two minutes produced a goal. It was pretty much the same script as in Hungerford earlier in the season, with Edser popping up in the right position to open the scoring after some intricate work between Luke O’Neill, Ben Chapman and Darren McQueen.

That might well have rocked the visitors on their heels but Michael Fernandes had a chance for an immediate reply. He was forced wide by Mark Cousins and Edser was placed to block the shot Fernandes did produce after that. Dan Roberts had another cross into the six-yard box cut out a short while later before Chapman’s run and cross had to be crowded out by the Hungerford defence with Coulthirst sniffing around for the scraps.

Hungerford stuck to their guns but came under pressure again on half an hour when Darren McQueen saw his effort go close but cleared off the six-yard line by Rhys Tyler. A multiple passing move involving Coulthirst, Edser and Greg Cundle ended when Chapman’s back-heel didn’t quite come off, before an excellent run by Coulthirst teed up Edser for a shot blocked in the box and Chapman whipped the resulting effort just over from a tight angle.

Ten minutes from the break, an exhilarating solo interception and run by McQueen released him clear of the Hungerford defence and as goalkeeper Max Evans advanced, the Fleet man stroked his shot just wide of the far post.

Fleet kept coming and Coulthirst planted Edser’s square ball wide from the edge of the box and it was only a matter of time before the home side’s ascendancy produced another goal. And that time came on the stroke of half-time, Cundle the man on hand to finish off an exchange of passes from a corner.

The very definition of Shaq Attack!

The stubborn Hungerford rearguard couldn’t hold the Fleet as the second-half began and a goalkeeping error produced Fleet’s third three minutes in. Max Evans couldn’t dig his clearance out and hit the ball at a surprised Coulthirst, who turned, gathered his thoughts and smashed the ball home to the delight of the Plough End.

Cundle had two more good chances, one from a free-kick inside the area as a result of a Hungerford backpass to the goalkeeper. The red shirts were queuing up for the goal that would equal the club scoring record in a single season and sure enough it arrived before too long.

Another incisive move on 55 minutes carved the Crusaders open at the back and as Coulthirst weaved through, his ball wide into space, was gathered by an off-balance Edser who was cool and calculating before picking his spot.

The search for the record-breaking fifth goal continued on 65 minutes when Luke O’Neill hooked an effort agonisingly wide but it was Edser with the claim on the match-ball and the record-breaking strike on 73 minutes. He made a run through midfield, stroked the ball wide to Josh Wright down the right and the favour was returned into the box, Edser still running in and he fired past Evans for 5-0.

The party atmosphere continued towards full-time and Cousins saved from Ryan Jones to protect the clean sheet. There was time for a huge ovation as Harrison Firth replaced Cousins for the final few minutes and Fleet fans continued to roar their side over the season’s finishing line to cap what has been and will always be remembered as one of the grand old stadium’s most majestic campaigns.

And the records broken along the way might well suggest that the stats combined with the sublime football on show, that it was indeed the most majestic of them all.

EUFC: Cousins (Firth 87), O’Neill, Jombati, Solly, Wright, Clifford (N’Guessan 46), Chapman (Romain 57), Cundle, Edser, McQueen, Coulthirst.

Subs: Finney, Hollis

HTFC: M.Evans, Gunner, J.Evans, Roberts (G.Evans 64), Boachie, Rollinson (M.Jones 56), Fernandes, Berry-Hargreaves, Tyler, Bailer, R.Jones.

Subs: Lopes, Delaney

Attendance: 2,155