Eastbourne Borough suffered a fifth defeat in a row as Anthony Cook’s second-half strike earned play-off hopefuls Ebbsfleet United a hard fought 1-0 victory, (writes Stephen Kent).
It was just Cook’s excellent solo goal that separated the two sides at Stonebridge Road, in what was a high-tempo game which could of easily swung either way.
Ben May earned the first decent chance for the Fleet on the ninth minute, heading just over the crossbar from Joe Howe’s precise high cross.
Moments later the home crowd thought they had the lead when Craig Ross fumbled Cook’s low shot from the left of the goal, only for Lewis Tallack to superbly head the ball off the line.
Borough continued to defend well and were rewarded their best chance of the match on the 32nd minute after Tom Derry fell on top of the ball and calmly released it to the on-rushing Charlie Gorman who’s shot was blocked well by Preston Edwards at his near post.
Minutes before the half-time whistle, Ebbsfleet missed another opportunity after Billy Bricknell’s low pass to May outsmarted the Borough defence and Ross made an instinctual diving save to deny the striker.
The break seemed to benefit the Kent side the most, and only two minutes after the match resumed the Fleet managed to finally end the deadlock.
Cook excelled once again, running down the right wing and picked his moment perfectly to shoot from just outside the box, low and powerfully past Ross into the bottom-left corner of the net.
With Ebbsfleet continuing to press and ask questions of his side, Borough manager Tommy Widdrington brought on Elliot Levy and academy graduate Richie Welch in order to turn the game in their favour.
Although the changes helped slightly, Borough were reduced to half-chances for the rest of the game, the best being Derry’s long effort from 30 yards that was easily caught by Edwards.
With a fifth successive loss in a row, Borough’s form of late has been the worst in the Conference South and if it wasn’t for their great start to the season they would be currently languishing near the bottom of the table.
Afterwards, Widdrington spoke of his displeasure with how his side responded after the break.
“Up until half time I thought we well in the game. I was full of praise for the lads, they were doing really well. To concede a goal that early after the break shows a lack of character I feel.”
On the subject of the differences in status between the two sides, Widdrington said; “At the end of the day, men against boys will always lose.”
“The players that we have aren’t at the same level that Ebbsfleet have available to them, and Eastbourne Borough as a whole isn’t at the level they are at, simple as that.”
The Sports face Hayes & Yeading at Priory Lane on Easter Monday before travelling to Farnborough this Saturday for their final game of the season, where they will be hoping to finish their campaign off with a flourish.
Ebbsfleet United: Edwards, Howe (Sessegnon 79), Palmer, McMahon © (Osborn 90), Acheamping, Sankofa, Corcoran, Rance, May, Bricknell (Thalassitis 77), Cook. Unused subs: Hall, Lorraine
Eastbourne Borough: Ross, Tallack, Cole, Aldred, Simpemba ©, Rowe, Deaman (Levy 66), Gorman (Welch 80), Hammond, Johnson, Derry. Unused subs: Stinson, Woodall, Taylor