Ebbsfleet United extended their lead at the top of the National League South table to 11 points with a victory in difficult conditions at the ProKit Stadium. Two first half goals from Aaron McLean were enough to secure victory, despite Morgan Ferrier halving the deficit for the hosts just before half-time. A tricky playing surface and gusty winds affected the contest in terms of a complete spectacle, but McLean was clinical in front of goal for the visitors when the he breached the host’s defensive line.
Aaron McLean nearly opened the scoring in the 9th minute after a ball forward from Dean Rance enabled the forward to escape in behind the Bishop’s Stortford backline. McLean’s movement forced the home keeper, Ross Fitzsimons, to come well off his line to smother the attacker, but his efforts were in vain as McLean slotted the ball goalwards. Fitzsimons’ blushes were spared when his Chris M’Boungou cleared the ball off the line for a corner.
It did not take McLean long to add his name to the scoresheet however, as he scored the opener in the 12th minute. Bryan Van Den Bogaert tackled Bishop’s Stortford right-back, Ashley Miller, inside his own half, from which the ball diverted into the path of McLean upfield. He then showed composure to slot the ball past Fitzsimons, who was forced into a one-on-one situation against the number ten.
Bishop’s Stortford had to wait until the half hour mark to make their first impression on the Ebbsfleet goal. Brandon Hall had to be alert between the sticks, as he turned behind an effort from Miller. The right back fired the ball into the turf around twenty yards out, which made the ball loop up as it came towards Hall, but the keeper did well to turn the shot behind.
Ebbsfleet were not to be deterred by the brief period of pressure as they doubled their lead in the 36th minute. McLean breached the Bishop’s Stortford backline once again to find himself in open space, and he converted a second into the far corner past a helpless Fitzsimons. It was a slick finish from the former Peterborough and Hull man, as he made it two goals from three attempts on target.
The home side were able to pull one back before the break thanks to a Morgan Ferrier strike. He collected a pass from Johnny Herd to curl an effort just inside the near post from 20 yards out to set up an intriguing second half.
The first couple of chances in the second half fell Bishop’s Stortford’s way as they looked to level proceedings. Elliott Buchanan did well to control the ball on the edge of the box, but he ultimately shot wide. Then, Buchanan saw a 25 yard free-kick saved by Hall, although in the aftermath Ebbsfleet countered with conviction. McLean broke down the left before he centred a ball into the path of Stuart Lewis, whose powerful effort forced Fitzsimons to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Bishop’s Stortford then missed a golden opportunity with thirteen minutes to go, which turned out to be their best chance to level things up. Frankie Merrifield produced a fine low cross into the danger zone, but Buchanan could not apply the decisive finish.
The best of the chances in the latter stages were produced by Ebbsfleet, as they looked to exploit the space in behind, with the hosts pushing forward for a leveller. Lewis almost curled an effort into the top corner, before substitute, Matt Godden came close with two efforts. He fired narrowly over the bar after he found himself free from a route one pass, and also saw a shot turned behind by Fitzsimons at the near post. Lewis then had a close-range effort blocked in the final moments, before Ebbsfleet closed out the contest to pick up another valuable three points in their quest for promotion, and the league title.
Bishop’s Stortford: Fitzsimons, Miller, Herd, Abdullahi, Lee, M’Boungou, Moore, Merrifield (Lawrence 78), Suarez, Buchanan, Ferrier
Ebbsfleet United: Hall, Fish, Van Den Bogaert, Lewis, Acheampong, Bonner, Rance, Parkes (Haynes 73), Kedwell, McLean (Godden 78), Cook
Report by James Hunt
Photos courtesy of Nathan Cracknell. You can find more images from the game on his webpage http://ngcracknell.wix.com/ngcsport#!ebbsfleet-united—home/uj6rl
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