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Ebbsfleet United boss Steve Brown proud of his side's performance against Bromley in the Skrill South play-offs

By Steve Tervet
Steve Brown Picture: Andy Payton

Ebbsfleet boss Steve Brown admitted things couldn't have gone much better against Bromley on Wednesday night.

The Fleet will take a 4-0 lead into the second leg of their Skrill South play-off semi-final after putting their local rivals to the sword in the first meeting.

Brown watched his side score two goals in the first nine minutes and another two in the second half, with Bromley down to 10 men for almost the whole game.

He said: "When you build up to these games, you have an idea in your head of how you’d like it to go. We spoke in the dressing-room about putting them on the back foot, about a high tempo start to the game. We went 1-0 up within the first minute and 2-0 up inside 10, and the sending-off.

"What happens then? Do you go for a third? You don’t need to. We’re effectively in the first quarter of the tie, in the first half. It becomes a balance of trying to get a third but not allowing Bromley to get something on the counter-attack.

"Within that spell, after the second goal, Bromley did have more play than I would have liked and I thought we lost our composure a little bit. We were hacking things away, so it was nice to get in at half-time and calm them all down and explain what we wanted to do in the second half.

"The third and fourth goals are the icing on the cake. But we let them have too many opportunities, for 11 v 10, and we’ll need to batten down the hatches a bit more when we go to Bromley on Saturday."

The key moment of the game came when Ashley Nicholls was sent off for handball on the goal line, with Ebbsfleet 1-0 up. Billy Bricknell scored the resulting penalty and there were plenty of gaps for Brown's side to exploit after that.

Brown said: "It was definitely handball. I don’t know if he got the right player or not, I didn’t see that, but it was definitely handball off the line, therefore it’s a sending-off.

"The ref was actually going to give a foul to them. We had a couple of opportunities to score, we finally got it in the back of the net and it looked like, to me, the ref had given a foul on their centre-half and was going to give it their way. The linesman had obviously put the flag across his chest to indicate a penalty.

"The one thing I’ve questioned about officials this year is that they don’t allow their assistants to help them out enough. I go back to the Concord game where he told him it wasn’t a penalty, that it was a free-kick to us, and he still chose to give the penalty to Concord. I was quite thankful that the assistant got that one (against Bromley) spot on."

Bromley manager Mark Goldberg's tactics in the second half surprised Brown.

He said: "They went three up front when it was 3-0 and that’s quite unusual. For a team that’s got a home tie to come, I thought they might go the other way and say 'let’s keep it to three and see if we can get back into the game at our place on Saturday'. But they didn’t, they kept pushing to try to get a goal, which left us spaces to exploit.

"I put on Stacy (Long) to try to find those little pockets in behind the front player, which he did very well, and we managed to get a fourth, which is a nice cushion to have. But it’s only half-time, effectively."

The second leg at Hayes Lane kicks off at 3pm on Saturday.

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