Published: 21:30, 24 April 2014 |
Ebbsfleet have qualified for the Skrill South play-offs after an incredible win at Concord on Thursday night.
Anthony Cook gave the Fleet a first-half lead, but only after play had been delayed for 20 minutes. Assistant referee Daniel Cook had to be stretchered off after suffering a nasty Achilles injury, and the game couldn't restart until another official arrived to take over.
A Leon Gordon goal, 16 minutes from the end, levelled things up, only for Daryl McMahon to restore the Fleet's lead with a brilliant free-kick.
Straight from the kick-off, the home side won a penalty but Preston Edwards saved it to win the game and cap this extraordinary little chapter in the football season.
So much had been said and written about this game even before it kicked off, following the abandonment of the original fixture nine days earlier because of floodlight failure.
Ebbsfleet, leading 2-0 that night, had Michael Corcoran sent off just before half the lights around the Aspect Arena went out. Having already played for 52 minutes, the visitors were unhappy about having to come back and play the whole game again but their appeal to the FA on that very matter was dismissed on Wednesday.
Feelings were running high before kick-off. A week's worth of angry Twitter exchanges between both sets of supporters, a debate about whether admission to the replay would be free - it eventually was - and some passionate comments from both managers all meant this was much more than 'just another game'.
Aside from anything else, Ebbsfleet travelled to Canvey Island needing the points.
The home side, as a result of the rearrangement, were playing their second game in as many days. Concord manager Danny Cowley made eight changes to the side which won 1-0 at Basingstoke the night before.
For the Fleet, who lost 1-0 at Maidenhead on Easter Monday, Alex Osborn and Billy Bricknell came in for Corcoran and Michael Thalassitis.
After a cagey first 10 minutes, there was a flurry of chances.
Concord keeper Jamie Butler's sloppy kick out fell straight to Cook, whose first-time effort flashed wide of the near post.
At the other end, McMahon lost possession in the corner and Gordon set up James White on the edge of the box, although he failed to hit the target.
And then Aiden Palmer's cross from deep was headed back across the box by Ben May and Cook sent a left-footed volley past the far post.
But then Mr Cook, the assistant in front of the dugouts, down in considerable pain and had to be stretchered off. Both sets of players stayed on the pitch and after a local official had arrived to run the line, play restarted 20 minutes later.
Within 60 seconds of the resumption, Ebbsfleet were ahead. It was Cook who scored, his shot looping over Butler and dipping under the crossbar before nestling in the net.
But the Beachboys were almost level straight away. Edwards came for a high, hanging free-kick, didn't gather it, and former Dartford defender Matt Fry planted a header against the crossbar.
Chances kept coming for the visitors, too, with May's downward header from a right-wing Osborn cross drifting narrowly wide. May then shot wide following a weak Jack Lampe clearance and Dean Rance went close with a terrific volley in the closing stages of the first half.
Concord had the first effort of the second period. Rance was penalised for a challenge on Lewis Taafe - it was a soft decision - and the resulting free-kick fell to Miles, whose shot was held by Edwards.
At the other end, Osborn headed Bricknell's deep cross wide when he should perhaps have done better.
Concord made a couple of changes and had a good go at their visitors, but they found the Fleet defence in resolute mood. Anthony Acheampong and Osei Sankofa were probably glad to see the back of centre-forward Seedy Njie, the on-loan Southend man having proved a real handful for the best part of an hour.
Sam Collins tried his luck from 25 yards but Edwards watched the ball fly wide.
However, the home side were gradually building the pressure and they looked to have earned a share of the spoils when Gordon touched in Miles' low cross from the right.
Then came late drama.
McMahon curled a free-kick brilliantly beyond Butler to make it 2-1 but straight from the kick-off, Concord were awarded a penalty when Sankofa tackled Taafe in the area. Sankofa looked to have won the ball cleanly and the assistant on the far side actually flagged for a free-kick against Taafe.
Referee Neil Hair stuck with his original decision, though, leaving Edwards incandescent with rage. But the Fleet keeper kept up his reputation as a penalty expert by diving to his left and saving Tony Stokes' spot-kick.
The visitors came under pressure in the five added minutes but they held on for a win which means their season will extend into May. Ebbsfleet's promotion dream is alive.
Concord: Butler, Lampe, Harris, Miles, Easterford (Stokes 56mins), Fry, Gordon, White, Njie (King 55mins), Collins, Taafe. Subs not used: Goodacre, Glozier, Ogilvie.
Ebbsfleet: Edwards, Howe, Acheampong, Sankofa, Palmer, Osborn (Sessegnon 90mins), Rance, McMahon, Cook, May, Bricknell (Corcoran 88mins). Subs not used: Huke, Thalassitis, Hall.
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