A spirited second half performance was not enough to earn the Beachboys a point against their visitors Ebbsfleet writes Chris Clark.
The Beachboys gave home debuts to new signings Rob Girdlestone, Marvin Ekpiteta, Dean Mason and Alex Akrofi, but it was last season’s play-off final losers Ebbsfleet who started the game the strongest at Aspect Arena tonight, with John-Paul Kissock and the impressive Jack Powell dictating the play in the middle of the park. In fact Kissock and Powell’s first choice was to find the flying winger Sean Shields, who had started the game on fire! It was Shields who had the first chance of the match after 3 minutes as he drove into the box, but screwed his shot wide.
Concord’s full time opponents were getting plenty of time on the ball, and they were making Concord work very hard in the opening stages. Concord’s breaks into the Ebbsfleet box were as a rare as British Gold medal at the Olympics.
Concord just could not get a grip in the game, and the majority of the first half was spent on the back foot. The player’s could not be doubted for effort, but a bit more composure was needed on the ball, as Ebbsfleet were not in the mood for giving the ball back when they were in possession.
However despite all this possession, Ebbsfleet were not creating chances. Concord were resolute. This changed on 31 minutes, just when the Beachboys were beginning to edge their way back into the contest. A long free kick into the Concord box was not cleared properly, and the ball was prodded through to centre back Dave Winfield, who turned on goal from 16 yards out and steered a lovely shot into the bottom corner. You won’t see a centre half score a better goal all season!
Ebbsfleet went hunting for a second, but Concord kept on shutting the door on the edge of their box, as Mr Pollard blew his whistle for half-time, would Ebbsfleet pay for not scoring more goals when they dominated the first half?
Concord Rangers 0 Ebbsfleet 1
The second half got underway, and Concord were at it. You could tell this was a different side from the first half. Sharper in the tackle, getting in the faces of their illustrious opponents and turning the centre backs Winfield and Clark, using the pace of Alex Akrofi.
On 52 minutes, Concord created their first real chance of the game, a lovely clipped cross by the captain James White, found the head of Akrofi 8 yards out from goal, but his glancing header was just wide of the far post. This was a lot better from Concord.
A few minutes later, and last season’s top scorer Steve Cawley tried curling an effort past the huge Nathan Ashmore in the Ebbsfleet goal, but the goalkeeper was equal to the task and kept the visitors in front.
Ebbsfleet were playing more and more on the break, and then nearly doubled their lead on the hour, but Jack Powell’s shot was saved by Ben McNamara, the follow up fell to Powell again, but McNamara superbly tipped the ball away for a corner. A brilliant piece of goal-keeping.
Alex Akrofi’s pace was causing the Ebbsfleet defence all kinds of problems, and a ball down the channel found the pacey forward in space, Winfield decided to halt Akrofi by grabbing him round the waste on the edge of the box, but the referee declined to give the free kick. The home supporters informed Mr Pollard that his decision may well have not been the correct one.
Ebbsfleet were reduced to playing on the counter attack now, and Sam Deering who had come off the bench nearly wrapped the game up on 84 minutes, as he cut in from the right hand side and hit a belting shot on the edge of the box…McNamara could only watch it fly past him, but it crashed against the far post and away from danger.
Controversy reigned one minute later, as again Akrofi appeared to be brought down by Winfield. This time it was in the Ebbsfleet penalty area. The referee blew his whistle, but booked Akrofi for diving. If the home supporters were annoyed earlier in the half, this time they were raging. Akrofi and the rest of the Concord team could not believe it.
However this galvanised Concord for one last assault on the Ebbsfleet goal. A corner was swept in by Sam Collins, Steve King up from the back headed it back across goal…James White took the ball on his chest and thumped in a low volley…it was cleared off the line by the Ebbsfleet defence. Concord had come so close, and they fully deserved an equaliser for their second half play.
As the final whistle blew, both sides were applauded off the pitch. Ebbsfleet for a hard-earned away win, and Concord for a thoroughly spirited second half effort.
Concord Rangers 0
Ebbsfleet Utd 1 (Winfield 31)
Team – McNamara, Girdlestone, Collins (Teniola 90), King, Ekpiteta; White (c) Dowie, Mason (Hodd 73), Carlos; Cawley, Akrofi
Subs not used: Topley, Easterford, Onyemah