by Steve Tervet
Preston Edwards saved a stoppage-time penalty to earn Ebbsfleet a precious point against high-flying Newport County on Saturday.
The game seemed destined for a draw and the three added minutes had elapsed when Phil Walsh clumsily chopped down Robbie Wilmott in the box. Referee Charles Breakspear instantly pointed to the spot but Edwards (pictured) flung himself low to his left to keep out Andy Sandell’s spot-kick. It was the last kick of the game and the home fans celebrated all around Stonebridge Road.
Newport started the game knowing their Welsh rivals Wrexham had already been beaten at Dartford but the Fleet scrapped for every ball and were good value for their point.
Ebbsfleet’s line-up bore two changes from their 4-1 defeat at Wrexham in midweek. Matt Godden, back at the club on loan from Scunthorpe, started alongside Nathan Elder in attack and there was also a starting role for Liam Bellamy. Injury ruled out Craig Stone, Jack Saville and Stefan Payne while Joe Howe was also absent after failing to shake off an illness.
County arrived in red-hot form, having won their last five games in Blue Square Bet Premier as well as their last five on the road. Christian Jolley went close early on when he cut in from the right and sent a left-footed shot past the base of the post.
But the home side held their own on a sticky Stonebridge Road pitch. Godden looked especially lively, seeing one header blocked before unloading with a shot from 25 yards which whizzed past the angle of post and bar.
When Tony James fouled Bellamy, the County man went into the book and Ashley Carew’s subsequent free-kick was glanced over by the head of Liam Enver-Marum.
Jolley continued to be Newport’s best attacking outlet and he went agonisingly close to the opener. His curling shot from the right-hand side beat Edwards but dropped just wide of the far post.
Ebbsfleet looked to be coasting to half-time on level terms but they were punished for losing possession cheaply inside their own half. Scott Donnelly burst to the byline on 44 minutes and teased over a cross which Lee Minshull headed into the net from point-blank range.
The second half started quietly but it burst into life on 55 minutes. Michael Flynn was booked for fouling Carew wide on the Fleet left and although Newport cleared the initial free-kick, the ball was returned into the box and Enver-Marum stabbed home the equaliser from inside the six-yard box.
It was the home side doing most of the pressing now but County carried a real threat on the counter-attack, particularly through the pace of Jolley. From one such break, Andy Sandell crossed from the left and substitute Aaron O’Connor flashed a header narrowly wide.
O’Connor went close again moments later, cutting in from the left and powering a shot into the side netting.
The visitors pushed Ebbsfleet back as time started to tick away and it looked as though Sandell was about to leave them empty-handed – but Edwards had other ideas.
Ebbsfleet: Edwards, Phipp, Lorraine, Walsh, Gwillim, Enver-Marum (Azeez 88mins), Bellamy, Barrett, Carew, Elder, Godden. Subs not used: Blake, Menz, Shitta, Alabi. Attendance: 808.
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