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Ebbsfleet United 2 Eastleigh 2 match report

By Steve Tervet

It's now six draws in a row for Ebbsfleet after an eventful National League clash with Eastleigh.

Fleet were sluggish in the first half and deservedly trailed until Jack Powell levelled with a superb free-kick on the stroke of half-time.

Danny Kedwell put them in front after the break but Daryl McMahon's side, although now unbeaten in 31 league matches, couldn't hold on as the Spitfires rallied for a point. 

Ebbsfleet's Dean Rance battles win Mark Yeates Picture Andy Payton

Ebbsfleet's Dean Rance battles win Mark Yeates Picture: Andy Payton

It was one in, one out, as far as Ebbsfleet's injury list was concerned. Myles Weston missed out with a hamstring problem sustained during the 1-1 draw at Dover on Monday but Dean Rance was involved for the first time since the play-off final having undergone knee surgery in the summer.

Rance was named among the substitutes with Sean Shields the man picked to take Weston's place on the wing.

Eastleigh boss Richard Hill made six changes to his starting XI with Graham Stack back in goal while James Constable and Chris Zebroski returned to lead the line. The trio's inclusion added to a hugely experienced Spitfires line-up which also included former Charlton and Portsmouth midfielder Danny Hollands, who had a loan spell at Gillingham in 2013/14.

The home side have started too many games slowly this season and they did it again here with Eastleigh allowed to get their foot on the ball and take up dangerous positions too easily.

Callum Howe got up well to take a Shields cross off Danny Kedwell's head in the middle before Kedwell dragged a shot wide after Luke Coulson had led a counter-attack and fed Darren McQueen on the edge of the box.

But the visitors looked comfortable and they fired a warning across the Fleet bows when Zebroski somehow turned the ball over the bar from inside the six-yard box.

Ebbsfleet failed to heed the danger and they were behind on 18 minutes.

Yado Mambo gets to the ball ahead of Chris Zebroski Picture Andy Payton

Yado Mambo gets to the ball ahead of Chris Zebroski Picture: Andy Payton

Quite how referee Samuel Allison spotted a foul when Marvin McCoy made a clean tackle near the corner flag will remain a mystery - but the hosts should still have defended the free-kick better.

The first ball in wasn't cleared and Constable needed no second invitation to rifle the rebound into the net.

Kedwell, arriving late, connected with another Shields cross but failed to hit the target as the Spitfires continued to win the majority of 50-50 balls in midfield.

Stack held a deflected Powell effort after Shields had broken through midfield, although Eastleigh thought they'd doubled their lead moments later.

Nathan Ashmore stretched for a cross, dropped the ball and after Constable had tried to stab the ball home, Zebroski did - only to see the flag raised for offside. Some of the Ebbsfleet defending left a lot to be desired, Chris Bush carelessly passing the ball straight to Eastleigh on one occasion and Zebroski lashing a shot wide after walking into another good position.

But into first half stoppage-time Fleet pulled a trump card from their back pocket.

McQueen was fouled 25 yards from goal as he tried to spin away from his marker and Powell curled a quite brilliant free-kick over the wall, beyond the diving Stack and in off the crossbar.

Ebbsfleet celebrate Jack Powell's equaliser Picture Andy Payton

Ebbsfleet celebrate Jack Powell's equaliser Picture: Andy Payton

Despite the goal, Coulson was withdrawn at the break and Rance sent on to add midfield bite.

Ebbsfleet looked more purposeful immediately and Bagasan Graham had a shot deflected behind for a corner before Jack Payne fired over.

But at the other end, the Spitfires looked certain to retake the lead when Ashmore pushed Mark Yeates' low drive out to the feet of Constable. The former Oxford striker was surely expecting the net to bulge as he struck the rebound but somehow Ashmore got up in time to spread himself and make the latest in a string of remarkable saves this season.

Still the Spitfires looked dangerous every time they went forward and Bush headed clear from underneath his own crossbar after Rance had been dispossessed just outside the penalty area.

Back came Ebbsfleet and following good work by McQueen, left-back Graham stood up a cross which Kedwell headed over.

Kedwell, increasingly influential, was pulled back and this time Powell's free-kick clipped the top of the wall and flashed behind.

When Yado Mambo headed an Eastleigh free-kick clear, Fleet broke to good effect and McQueen forced Shields' right-wing cross over the line only to see the assistant flagging for offside.

But there was no denying Kedwell on 67 minutes as he forced the ball in at the near post after Graham had run onto Bush's superb through-ball and slid a low cross into the six-yard box.

Danny Kedwell forces the ball over the line to make it 2-1 Picture Andy Payton

Danny Kedwell forces the ball over the line to make it 2-1 Picture: Andy Payton

Graham's next cross deserved a goal, too, but Kedwell headed over at the far post.

Kedwell left the field to a big ovation 15 minutes from time as McMahon sent on Danny Mills but the visitors were level five minutes later.

Graham should have sent McQueen clear on the break but instead he dawdled, gave the ball away and when Reda Johnson took aim from distance, a touch from substitute Craig McAllister carried the ball beyond Ashmore.

Both sides had their moments late on but Bush's long shot, which floated over, was the last effort on goal either could muster. 

Ebbsfleet: Ashmore, McCoy, Mambo, Bush, Graham, Shields, Payne, Powell, Coulson (Rance 46mins), Kedwell (Mills 74mins), McQueen (McLean 85mins). Subs not used Cook, Miles.

Eastleigh: Stack, Johnson, Boyce, Howe, Wood, Miley, Hollands, Obileye (Stearn 74mins), Yeates (Matthews 64mins), Constable, Zebroski (McAllister 65mins). Subs not used: Green, Strevens.

Attendance: 1,423.

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