St Albans City 3-3 Ebbsfleet United
St Albans City 3-3 Ebbsfleet United

The Fleet suffered their first defeat in 90 minutes this season as St Albans rallied from 2-0 down to take the points courtesy of a second-half Shaun Jeffers header.

Will Wood started in defence for the visitors, with Tom Hadler, Adam Mekki, Josh Payne and Rakish Bingham returning to the line up as well. Jake Goodman’s suspension ruled him out while Lee Martin and Tobi Adebayo-Rowling weren’t fully fit and sat this one out.

The first-half could probably be neatly separated into three portions, with an even first 15 minutes, followed by Fleet superiority and culminating in St Albans’ best spell of the opening period.

The home side began with conviction, operating down the right flank to good effect but there was little to trouble a Fleet back line where Wood’s aerial prowess was matched by Sefa Kahraman and Charlie Rowan either side of him.

Ben Chapman was the first to show for the Fleet, firing over from 25 yards after a similar effort earlier at the other end from a St Albans corner.

Rowan attempted a floated pass through to Reece Grant who seemed to have got the better of the defenders either side of him but that ran clear.

Grant came increasingly into the reckoning as he proved a nuisance up front and on 16 minutes was inches from the opener. Mekki attacked and played a ball forward to Chapman, his cross found Grant with his back to goal and the striker turned to hit a shot just wide of the foot of the post.

Grant continued to call the shots and on 21 minutes he was tripped by Michael Johnson as he looked to gain space inside the box. Bingham forgot all his penalty woes of Tuesday night to fire confidently beyond Johnson.

The goal galvanised the visitors and they played some neat passing football, patiently probing for an opening. It came within six minutes, a set of balls to feet eventually falling for Jack Paxman whose touch ran clear past the home defence to Grant. The Fleet striker did well to keep his focus on the goal and fired home for the second.

If the first goal had encouraged the Fleet, the second prodded St Albans into action by way of a rejig in their setup. Jeffers found space down the right on the half-hour to play a cross in behind that Chapman headed clear. On the other flank, Dave Diedhiou tried his luck with a lower delivery that rolled down Kahraman’s arm according to St Albans appeals but the referee saw it differently.

The home side weren’t disappointed for long. Through the middle, Mitchell Weiss caused problems with some strong running; Chapman had a bite but missed before Rowan felled the striker at the cost of a caution.

Jeffers fired the free-kick just over but striker partner Weiss had better luck on 38 minutes, a Devante Stanley cross from the right sat up for him and he had the space and time to head past Hadler.

With some wind in their sails, St Albans pulled a second back within three minutes. Jeffers battled his way into a scoring position and kept his feet to fire beneath the onrushing Hadler who took some pace off the shot but it had enough to roll home despite Kahraman’s attempts to get back and clear.

Bobby-Joe Taylor wasn’t far away from Mekki’s run and cross on the stroke of half-time but he slid in too late and Fleet had the 15-minute break to regroup.

Alas it was the home side who were increasingly hungry for more, Jeffers hitting a somewhat wild effort across goal five minutes in. There was little to separate the sides after the break as neither could really fashion anything to trouble either goalkeeper until just before the hour was up.

And it went City’s way, a set piece from their left was cleared then swung in again and Jeffers rose to plant it into the back of the net for his second of the game.

Fleet tried to rally and Iffy Allen and Alfie Egan offered something a little different but the home side were well organised in the face of it.

Egan fed a useful ball into the box on 67 minutes but Bingham could only fire that over first-time while Chapman had a break into the area but Johnson cut out his cross.

At the other end, Munashe Sundire was in a great position to fire a point-blank effort on goal, Hadler blocking that and then equal to a follow-up shot from the same distance.

Fleet tried to find the creativity to unlock the home defence in the final 10 minutes, with Greg Cundle added from the bench. The closest they came was 11 minutes from time, Taylor whipping an inviting cross along the face of goal, Egan meeting it to drive a shot on target – but Johnson was there to parry it and Bingham was frustrated in his efforts to claim the rebound.

Charlie Rowan was thrown forward as the clock ticked down and Weiss might have extended the gap in the scoreline in the final minute but for another great save by Hadler.

EUFC: Hadler, Rowan, Wood, Kahraman, Taylor, Mekki (Allen 58), Payne, Chapman (Cundle 75), Paxman, Bingham, Grant (Egan 61). Subs not used: Frempah, Holmes
SACFC: Johnson, Stanley, Bender, Wiltshire, Nwabuolei, Jeffers (Chidyausika 86), Banton (Warner-Eley 88), Diedhiou, Weiss (Onokwai 90), Sundire, Mukena. Subs: Clark, Dada


 
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