Ebbsfleet end Eastborough Borough's unbeaten run

A third-minute goal was all that separated Eastbourne Borough and Ebbsfleet United at Priory Lane on Saturday, and it ended the Sports’ seven-week unbeaten run in National South.

Eastbourne Borough and Ebbsfleet do battle in the air / Picture: Andy Pelling
Eastbourne Borough and Ebbsfleet do battle in the air / Picture: Andy Pelling

Danny Bloor’s squad, missing four key players through injury, did not quite have the depth to match a powerful Ebbsfleet outfit – who defended their lead despite the loss of Will Wood to a red card just after half-time.

Champions in waiting? Far too early in the season, of course, but the Fleet are already making an impressive case – and it might just narrow down to a very local North Kent battle with their Dartford neighbours. On this showing, Ebbsfleet are strong, organised and physically resilient. Their football is quick and fluent, with strike power to cap it off.

Indeed, it took the visitors less than three minutes to strike on Saturday. Pouring forward, they carved a chance on the edge of the box for Greg Cundle, who arrowed a shot which Worgan had covered, until a deflection sent it spinning low into the far corner. 1-0, and 87 minutes to find an equaliser.

Borough look for a breakthrough but Ebbsfleet defended resolutely / Picture: Andy Pelling

Borough were almost level within a minute. Greg Luer and Chris Whelpdale combined fluently, but the low cross was knocked away for a corner, from which Charlie Towning shot just wide.

And throughout the first half the two teams, evenly matched, continued to trade chance for chance. Dom Poleon’s back-post header, into the side netting, and Alfie Egan’s full-stretch lunge, just over the crossbar, were Ebbsfleet’s best sights of goal, but Borough stood unflinchingly toe to toe.

Charley Kendall – a late replacement for skipper Charlie Walker, who pulled up in the warm-up – was chasing and foraging relentlessly, and his right-flank run and low cross was struck just wide by a pounding Chris Whelpdale. Then Whelpdale himself found Greg Luer in a pocket of space, just inside the box, but the striker’s low shot skimmed just off the outside of the right post.

An even contest? By the end of the game, the Sports would chalk up fifteen corners – to Ebbsfleet’s five – and the visitors’ foul count was far into double figures as they stamped themselves on the game. But the only real statistic in football is the scoreline.

The second half opened explosively. Kasim Aidoo – returning at left-back for the injured Jack Currie – was sliced to the ground by a wild haymaking tackle from Will Wood. A red card without question, and a remaining 42 minutes for Fleet to defend a slender lead. Their narrow success says more about Dennis Kutrieb’s squad – tight and committed – than about Danny Bloor’s honest and battling side.

The Sports tried everything, including the fresh legs of Josh Oyinsan and Dom Hutchinson in attack, and they did have several sights of goal. Oyinsan hooked a difficult chance just wide from Rollinson’s long cross, and Hutchinson’s lethal low ball across the face of goal was somehow scrambled away.

Jake Elliott headed too high from a corner and Luer’s 25-yarder billowed wide. But the Fleet stood strong and, to their credit, created three or four scoring chances of their own on the break. Mr Atkinson turned down two Borough penalty appeals, but there was no repetition of the previous week’s stoppage-time drama. The Sports had tested themselves against the best in the division, and were – only just – second best.

Borough: Worgan; Beresford, Elliott, Dickenson, Aidoo (Hutchinson 87) ; Towning (Oyinsan 72), Ferry; Rollinson, Whelpdale, Luer; Kendall.

Unused subs: Walker, Bennett, Holter. Att: 712

Referee: Ben Atkinson – got almost all the major calls right

Borough MoM: Chris Whelpdale – never stopped prompting and battling

* Borough are away to Dorking Wanderers this evening (Tues). See this website for a report on Wednesday.