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Home Gravesend Sport Article
Ebbsfleet snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against promotion rivals Bishop's Stortford on Saturday.
The home side were under-par, 1-0 down and heading for a third straight home defeat when Ben May fired them level on 75 minutes.
And left-back Aiden Palmer was the unlikely hero when he popped up to score the winning goal with just six minutes left.
Ebbsfleet are now six points clear of Stortford in the play-off race and this was a morale-boosting turnaround ahead of their trip to second-placed Eastleigh next Saturday.
Stonebridge Road had been under water on Friday but hard work by the ground staff and kind overnight weather meant the pitch was almost unblemished by kick-off.
With Dean Rance starting a two-game ban, Michael Corcoran came into midfield in Ebbsfleet's only change from their 1-0 win at Farnborough.
There were two former Fleet players in the Stortford squad. Johnny Herd started at left-back but striker Liam Enver-Marum was only on the bench.
A physically imposing Stortford side set about making their mark early on.
The ball ran kindly in the box for Anthony Church, who drew a good near-post save from Preston Edwards.
And with the home side appealing in vain for an offside flag against Brian Woodall, on ran Cliff Akurang into the box, only denied the opening goal by a superb Chris Sessegnon challenge.
Michael West whipped a free-kick across the face of Stortford's goal and just wide of the far post, but the visitors continued to set the agenda.
Woodall almost got on the end of George Allen's floated pass, Edwards taking it off his toe in the nick of time, and the Fleet keeper then held an Akurang header from Woodall's cross.
But then came the goal which had looked increasingly likely. Ebbsfleet failed to properly clear a 23rd-minute corner and Woodall coaxed over an inviting cross from the left which Akurang headed down into the net.
The home side had plenty of the ball after that but they were careless in possession.
Cook's flick-on ran through to Billy Bricknell and he tried to go round Sam Cowler, but the Stortford keeper stood tall and forced Bricknell to reconsider. He turned back and played the ball to Daryl McMahon, who teed up Corcoran for a shot which flashed wide.
The second half was 15 minutes old before the home side, and the home crowd, came to life. Cook's vicious free-kick from 30 yards was creeping under the crossbar when Cowler tipped it over.
Stortford were furious when Cook's challenge on Harry Baker went unchallenged, and even more so when Cook himself won a free-kick seconds later. But McMahon's delivery was too deep and the chance was wasted.
Baker burst to the byline at the other end and pulled the ball back for Church, who failed to connect when it looked like the net could bulge again.
The visitors were starting to assume control again. Akurang held off several defenders and teed up Jake Hall, who curled a shot just over.
Back came the home side, though, and Sessegnon unloaded with a powerful drive which Cowler did well to turn round his near post.
And the Fleet drew level with 15 minutes left. Bricknell turned well at the near post and although his shot was blocked, May reacted quickest and hooked a shot into the bottom corner.
However, the visitors almost restored their lead immediately. A Stortford free-kick ran free in the box and Hall thought he'd scored, only to hang his head in disbelief when Edwards clawed his shot over the bar.
And the significance of that save was put into context with six minutes left.
McMahon's teasing delivery to the back post was turned back across a crowded goalmouth and Palmer bundled it home to the unbridalled joy of the home faithful.
The margin of victory should have been even greater, with Bricknell and substitute Michael Thalassitis missing gilt-edged chances at the death, but it mattered not when referee David Woolford blew for time.
Ebbsfleet: Edwards, Sessegnon, Lorraine, Sankofa, Palmer, West (Osborn 62mins), McMahon, Corcoran, Cook, May (Thalassitis 77mins), Bricknell. Subs not used: Howe, B Hall, Phipp.
Bishop's Stortford: Cowler, Baker, Herd, Allen, Francis, McNaughton (Fagbohun 85mins), Johnson, Church, Woodall, Akurang, J Hall (Enver-Marum 89mins). Subs not used: Wright, Costa, Lockie.
Do u know how good it feels to wake up to not only winning but scoring the winner... Bloody great!! Loving life at the Fleet #promotion— Palms (@AidenPalmer) January 19, 2014
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