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Ebbsfleet United 0-2 Kidderminster Harriers
Ebbsfleet United 0-2 Kidderminster Harriers

The Fleet were left empty-handed in a game decided by the home side’s Ashley Hemmings’ brace, scored in the four minutes of added time in this afternoon’s first-half.

There was controversy surrounding Harriers’ second goal from a quickly taken free-kick and although Dominic Poleon saw a shot cannon off the foot of the post late on, Fleet could not find their way back.

The visitors named an unchanged starting side and bench from last week’s victory over Oldham Athletic and hopes were high of a double over Kidderminster. 

The first chance of the match came from a Fleet corner, Josh Wright’s delivery deflected clear at the near post but the Harriers began to make their home advantage count as they edged forward with purpose. Moments later, the hosts had a strong chance as Hemmings’ strike was inches wide of the post. Fleet were on the charge again as Dominic Poleon drove the ball towards goal, suggesting his power might unbalance the home defence and he skipped through​​ to send a shot narrowly off target.

Mark Cousins came out to deny Amari Morgan-Smith who collapsed under the challenge but the referee waved play on and the Harriers man was booked for the protest.

The game began to settle in the freezing, foggy cold but the Fleet picked up the tempo once more when great link-up play between the two Doms gave Poleon another chance to fire a shot on target, but Christian Dibble made the save. 

Luke O’Neill delivered a free-kick in and then a long-range strike which required Dibble’s safe hands before his opposite number Cousins plucked Jack Lambert long-range shot to safety.

Morgan-Smith, already on a yellow, then slammed into Cundle two minutes before the break – a challenge Fleet players thought should have earned at least a second caution but the referee was not moved by their protests.

With the board for added time in the hands of the fourth official, Kidderminster found the breakthrough. Sammy Robinson teed up Hemmings for a sprint on goal and he kept going before drilling a shot out of Cousins’ reach. That advantage was doubled two minutes later. A free-kick from the right was allowed to carry on by the referee after his spray failed to work and he didn’t resume play via his whistle or move the wall back. In the confusion, Lambert got behind the defence as a result and then tucked a pass into the path of Hemmings who was able to fire across goal and in.

Harriers came out for the second period with a confidence about them and Cousins pulled off a superb save to deny Lambert and he followed that up with an even more acrobatic stop as the lively Lambert and Hemmings linked up for the latter to send a rising header on target.

Fleet were a little out of rhythm with an injury to Mustapha Olagunju meaning Ouss Cissé and Dom Samuel both had to drop deeper and substitute Nathan Odokonyero partnered Poleon.

Having seen off those threats, the Fleet settled into the game once again and enjoyed most of the possession after that. Substitute Darren McQueen found space to take a shot on – that went off target but his second effort was denied by the gloves of Dibble. And the closest chance for the yellow shirts came in the 77th minute when Poleon found enough room for a shot from the edge of the area saw his effort ricochet off the woodwork, Myles Kenlock then seeing his drive blocked in the six-yard box.

McQueen earned another chance for the Fleet but his shot was denied once again by Dibble while Samuel stretched for a useful O’Neill low cross into the box but Harriers held out, satisfied with the two-goal lead.

EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill, Kenlock, Olagunju (Odokonyero 52), Cissé, Wright, Cundle, Fanimo (McQueen 62), Edser (Tanner 90), Samuel, Poleon. Subs: Chapman, Amoo
KHFC: Dibble, Pearce, McNally, Morgan-Smith (McDonagh 81), Hemmings, Lambert (Brown 81), Preston, Lissimore, McLean (Richards 88), Robinson, Hobson. Subs: Penny, Tollitt
Attendance: 2,071 (105 EUFC)

Images courtesy of Ed Miller