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Ebbsfleet United boss Steve Brown unhappy with the penalty awarded to Concord Rangers

By Steve Tervet
Steve Brown and Steve Gritt Picture: Andy Payton
Steve Brown and Steve Gritt Picture: Andy Payton

Ebbsfleet got the result they needed at Concord but manager Steve Brown knew things could have been so different.

Anthony Cook gave the Fleet a 15th-minute lead at the Aspect Arena but Leon Gordon fired the Beachboys level with 16 minutes left. Daryl McMahon then restored Ebbsfleet's lead with a fine free-kick before referee Neil Hair controversially awarded Concord a penalty which Preston Edwards saved.

Brown's side held on to win 2-1 and book their place in the Skrill South play-offs.

He said: "Our aim was to make the play-offs here and not go into the last game of the season against Dorchester needing a win – and we’ve done that.

"I’ve not quite experienced a last 10 minutes like that in any football match. You had the free-kick from Daryl McMahon, which was just sublime. He’s got the ability to do that at the drop of a hat and that’s why you bring players like him in, because he can turn a game.

"And then what seemed like two or three minutes later, I don’t know what the time frame was, their penalty. I’m still struggling to understand how he gave it.

"I was very calm at the end. I think it helps when you’ve had the result. If we didn’t get the result, if he’d popped that penalty in, it could have cost us.

"It’s a hard job, I’ve never said it’s an easy job being a referee, but that decision perplexed me. Osei Sankofa clears the ball, the guy follows through on Osei, it’s a free-kick to us – and he points to the spot. People will say justice was done, because Preston saved it, but it could have been different. It was a poor decision."

Ebbsfleet have had the occasional wobble in recent weeks but they've always looked safe in the top-five.

Brown said: "The goalposts have moved a little bit because (the target last summer) was to build a squad that hopefully challenged for the play-offs. If we didn’t, it wasn’t the end of the world. But then that suddenly changed.

"We’ve been in the play-offs since November – that in itself is an achievement. Five months straight in the play-offs, we’ve not dropped out of them at all. If you take away the first nine games, we’ve been on for two points a game, I believe, which is good at this level.

"Sometimes I listen to things and I think 'crikey, we’re not bottom here, guys, we’ve been in the play-offs since November'. There’s now a dogfight between Havant and Dover. Good luck to both those sides on Saturday. We did the job that we had to do tonight, which was to secure our play-off spot. Dover had to win the other day and they didn’t, they drew.

"It’s always been in our hands and that’s the best way to have it. Don’t have it that you’ve got to rely on other people dropping points – and we’ve not been in that position. It was in our hands, we’ve done that job and we look forward to the play-off games and the Dorchester game on Saturday.

"I’m pleased for everybody at the football club. I’m pleased for the supporters, I’m pleased for the board, I’m pleased for Dr Abdulla, I’m pleased for the players and I’m pleased for me and the staff. It’s been a long season with a lot going on. It’s been a real baptism of fire for me, in terms of what I’ve had to go through in the last 10 months and I’ve had some great support around me to help me along the way."

Ebbsfleet will be at home in the first leg of their play-off semi-final on Wednesday night.

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