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Steve Brown knows the first goal is crucial when Ebbsfleet United meet Dover Athletic in the Skrill South play-off final

By Steve Tervet

Ebbsfleet United manager Steve Brown knows his side cannot afford to concede another early goal to Dover in Saturday's play-off final.

Richard Orlu headed Dover in front after just six minutes when ex-Whites coach Brown returned to Crabble in August. Ebbsfleet lost 2-1 that night.

Richard Orlu heads Dover in front against Ebbsfleet (Pic Gary Browne)

Richard Orlu heads Dover in front against Ebbsfleet (Pic: Gary Browne)

And they made an even worse start in the reverse fixture at Stonebridge Road, when goalkeeper Preston Edwards sliced Osei Sankofa's backpass into his own net after just 20 seconds.

Chris Kinnear's side went on to win 2-0 and the importance of scoring first in the final at Stonebridge Road on Saturday has not been lost on Brown.

Preston Edwards is stunned by the bizarre own goal Picture Andy Payton

Preston Edwards is stunned by the bizarre own goal Picture: Andy Payton

He said: "Dover have shown that if you can get in front and they have to chase the game, they’re a slightly different side than when they go in front. When they go in front, they’re very difficult to break down.

"They have the best defensive record in the league, so there is that to contend with, but they have lost a lot of games. If you get in front and they have to change their game, it does put you on the front foot.

"But the flip-side of that coin is that we’ve gone behind twice and it’s a very tough unit to break down. We’ve shown, at Dover, it can be broken down when they do go in front.

"It’s about getting the players right and ready, tactically, set up in the right way, with a plan A and a plan B. We’ll watch clips of Dover this week, we’ll analyse what they’ve done across the season and we’ll analyse the two league games (against us)."

The final is almost impossible to call, given Dover's unrivalled away form and the fact Ebbsfleet have won their last eight home games without conceding a goal.

Steve Brown passes on instructions to Daryl McMahon Picture Andy Payton

Steve Brown passes on instructions to Daryl McMahon Picture: Andy Payton

Brown said: "We know their away record’s very good but we know we’re going to pack Stonebridge Road out and we know the supporters are going to be very passionate. We’ve got a decent record there – eight clean sheets on the bounce and I don’t think we’ve lost there since Bromley came to town on January 1.

"So there isn’t a great deal to not be positive about in terms of where the fixture is and what we’re going to have available to us, but you are going to have 11 guys across the other side of the pitch who are going to want to ruin your day. They’ll bring all those big guns back (who didn't play in the Kent Senior Cup final on Monday).

"We know what to expect and it’s going to be one of those days where the big players turn up and play well. The more of the bigger players that perform, you better your performance will be, which will give you a chance to win the game."

And Brown insisted that beating his previous employers to promotion was not his chief motivation.

"I’d be more proud and pleased for the players," he said. "What they’ve given me this year, I think, deserves to be running Dover close on Saturday to give themselves a shot. They’ve played with pride and passion.

"It’s been a tough year in terms of what we’ve had to deal with, off the pitch. Ebbsfleet was going under and we’ve done our best to give our supporters something to get behind.

"If we win, it won’t make it any more satisfactory that it’s Dover, Sutton or Bromley, I promise you. It wouldn’t be. It would be pride for the players and the fact that I think what they’ve done for this football club and for me this year, it would just make me proud."

Kick-off at Stonebridge Road is at 3pm. The game is segregated, but not all-ticket.

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