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Ebbsfleet United boss Steve Brown expecting a great atmosphere when Bromley visit Stonebridge Road in the Skrill South play-offs

By Steve Tervet
Steve Brown Picture: Chris Davey
Steve Brown Picture: Chris Davey

Steve Brown expects a brilliant atmosphere when Ebbsfleet host Bromley in the Skrill South play-offs at Stonebridge Road tonight.

The Fleet boss is preparing his side for a two-legged semi-final against their local rivals, with Sutton United or Dover Athletic awaiting the winners in next Saturday's final.

Ebbsfleet were by far the best-supported club during the regular Skrill South season and tonight's first leg under the lights in north Kent should be quite an occasion.

Brown said: "The bigger the crowd the better. When the crowd stuffs Stonebridge Road and packs it out, it creates a brilliant atmosphere. It’s a mouth-watering game.

"If you get the size of the crowd right in midweek, it does make a difference. It’s normally a little bit damper in the evening, which will do this pitch a favour. It’ll give it a little bit of a sheen on top and hopefully you’ll see a decent football game.

"We beat Bromley here 4-1 in the Trophy, they bounced back from that and beat us here 3-1 in the league game. Any team that’s made the play-offs is a decent team. You’ve got two legs to conjure up a way of getting through to the final.

"I think it’ll be a decent set of games against Bromley. It’s just going to be which team turns up and does the better job over the two legs. I know that’s an obvious statement but when I was down at Dover last year, we pretty much won the game in the first leg. We were 2-0 up after 15 minutes and that’s what you’ve got to avoid. You’ve got to avoid losing the game. Stay in the game. Over two nineties, you’ve got to be patient."

Michael Thalassitis scores against Bromley in the FA Trophy Picture: Andy Payton
Michael Thalassitis scores against Bromley in the FA Trophy Picture: Andy Payton

Ebbsfleet go into the game on the back of seven straight home wins.

Brown said: "We haven’t conceded a goal in a long time here. That’s seven clean sheets in a row, so defensively we look solid. They’re going to be tight affairs, the play-off games, home and away, unless we stride out and get three or four goals."

The last time Brown's side lost at home was their 3-1 reverse against Bromley on New Year's Day.

Brown said: "On that day, I have to give credit to Bromley. I’ve watched the DVD and they were terrific. They took every chance they got, they were bright, they were lively, and they thoroughly deserved that victory.

"I will look over both DVDs (the away game as well), I’ll look at the team selections from them, the team selections from us, I’ll look at their recent team selections.

"But I think you have to put those results to one side. They were in December and January, so as much as I’ll look at them visually, I think you have to put them to one side because this is slightly different. There’s a lot more pressure and the squads will have changed."

Action from Ebbsfleet's defeat to Bromley in January Picture: Andy Payton
Action from Ebbsfleet's defeat to Bromley in January Picture: Andy Payton

Bromley topped the Skrill South table for much of the season before being reeled in by eventual champions Eastleigh - but Brown insists they won't see the play-offs as a consolation prize.

He said: "Everybody in football knows that you just go to the end. You can control the league for 70% of it and you can lose it towards the end but you just have to face facts that you’re in the play-offs. You’ve got to find a way to dig deep and pull out two performances. They’ll be no different.

"I know Smithy (Neil Smith) well and he’ll be a driving force in that dressing-room. He’ll be looking to get a reaction from those players. They certainly won’t lie down, that’s for sure.

"They were picking up results left, right and centre earlier in the season and that’s really tough to do. Their squad isn’t huge, so therefore there was always going to be a part of the season where they lost a couple of players or there were some injuries or suspensions.

"They did have a little bit of a falter-up in February and March and that gave the opportunity for Eastleigh to take over, who have the slightly larger squad and more experienced players.

"But to finish third in the league across a 42-game season means they’ve got something about them. I don’t see that being any different. They’ll have the focus and the mentality to attack both the play-off games."

Midfielder Michael Corcoran starts a three-game suspension tonight, while injuries rule out defender Yado Mambo and midfielder Michael West.

Kick-off at Stonebridge Road is at 7.45pm.

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