The Fleet are going up!

So as a follow-up to my previous post, a preview of the Blue Square South Play-off final, I now give to you the match report if Farnborough v Ebbsfleet United.

The final was played at Farnborough’s home ground and there were a record 4,267 in attendance, of which over half were travelling fans.

Both Farnborough and Ebbsfleet put out their best available XI after the Fleet’s Derek Duncan aggravated his ankle injury sustained a few weeks before in the warm up. Cesc Fakinos kept his place for the Kent side with Ashley Carew out suspended and keeper Preston Edwards returned after missing the last three games with injury.

And it was the Fleet who looked more comfortable in possession early on, with Tom Phipp orchestrating play from his position in central midfield. Michael West forced Michael Jordan to push his 30-yard free-kick behind for a corner and Farnborough then did well to clear another West set-piece after Craig Braham-Barrett had fouled Fakinos just outside the penalty area.

The visitors got in behind Farnborough for the first time when Ricky Shakes sprinted onto Fakinos’ through-ball and while the hosts cleared the immediate danger, they did not hold out for long.

With 28 minutes on the clock, Craig Stone hurled in a throw from the right-hand touchline and when Calum Willock craned his neck to flick the ball on, West sprang into the air and arrowed a magnificent bicycle kick past the statuesque Jordan.

Immediately, the Fleet pressed forward in search of a second goal as Farnborough struggled to come to terms with the stunning nature of West’s strike.

When they did begin to show signs of life, Kezie Ibe and Bradley Bubb carried their greatest threat going forward but Ebbsfleet’s defence stood resolute, with centre-backs Paul Lorraine and Clint Easton winning all their aerial battles.

Bubb played in Dale Binns late in the half and the left-winger’s cross sparked momentary concern in the Fleet box but when the visitors cleared the danger, Willock sent Shakes haring away and his fizzing cross zipped across Jordan, who endured a nervy opening 45 minutes.

Farnborough, lethargic in the first-half, burst into life less than a minute after the restart. A loose ball fell the way of Daryl McMahon, 25 yards out and he unloaded with a powerful volley which flashed just wide of the post.

However, the effort failed to rejuvenate the Hampshire side and Ebbsfleet roared back to double their lead on 52 minutes. Edwards executed an unorthodox clearance and West latched onto it, slipping the ball into the path of Shakes, who expertly lofted the ball over Jordan and into the vacant net.

With the hosts in defensive disarray, the Fleet went for the kill and Shakes led a three-on-three counter-attack, cutting inside and forcing a good save from Jordan.

The home crowd were now deathly quiet and Ebbsfleet, taking advantage of the increasing space in midfield, continued to create the better openings. West wriggled free and surged towards the area before playing in Shakes, who forced another save from Jordan.

With 17 minutes remaining, the result looked to have been put beyond any doubt when West leapt highest to meet Phipp’s cross at the back post and plant a superb header back across Jordan and into the far corner.

The Fleet were riding the game out in some comfort until Farnborough struck twice in the final three minutes. First, McMahon crunched home a piledriver from distance and then substitute Paul Booth poked the ball beyond Edwards to set up a grandstand finale and a nervy last few minutes for the Fleet fans.

The crowd sensed extra-time could now be on the cards and the Fleet briefly looked shaky, but they rubber-stamped their win, and promotion, when Willock touched Fakinos’ low centre beyond Jordan, sparking wild celebrations among the travelling contingent.

Farnborough v. Ebbsfleet United (Blue Square Bet South Play-Off Final – 15.5.11) from MyFootballClub on Vimeo.



Joshua Peck

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