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Ebbsfleet United midfielder Dean Rance gutted to miss Skrill South play-off final against Dover Athletic through suspension

By Steve Tervet

Ebbsfleet midfielder Dean Rance insists the red card which will rule him out of Saturday's play-off final against Dover was unfair.

Rance was hit with a three-game ban after being shown a straight red card for his tackle on Bromley's Bradley Goldberg on Saturday. Ebbsfleet won the semi-final 4-1 on aggregate but the sending-off means Rance must watch the biggest game of the season from the stands.

Dean Rance gets up well against Bromley in the semi-final second leg Picture: Andy Payton
Dean Rance gets up well against Bromley in the semi-final second leg Picture: Andy Payton

He said: "Now you’re not allowed to tackle at all. I won the whole ball, I've not touched him, and the ref's given a straight red. He couldn’t wait to give it. As soon as he came running over, I knew he was going to do it. It looked like he just couldn’t wait to give a red card.

"I knew (as I was walking off) that I was going to miss the game. I knew I was missing on Saturday. I'm absolutely gutted.

"I was going to argue but I thought 'there’s no point'. There’s nothing I can gain from it. He’s not going to change it, there was nothing I could do.

"The worst thing is, I’ve been trying to be easy with my yellow cards because a couple more yellow cards and I would have been missing the final anyway. I’ve not been putting my foot in.

"People say maybe 'you shouldn’t do it', but that’s not me. If the ball’s there to be won, I’m going to win it. It wasn’t reckless, it was a good challenge. The only person who thought it was a red card was the ref. No-one else made a fuss about it. The ref just couldn’t wait to get the card out of his pocket."

Rance has arguably been Steve Brown's best signing since he took over as Ebbsfleet manager last summer. The former Gillingham and Dover player has barely put a foot wrong in the centre of midfield and he's even chipped in with three goals.

He said: "I’m happy that we’re through to the final. That’s what the aim was before the two games. It’s not about me, it’s about the team, so we’ll go there on Saturday and we’ll get promoted.

"I think I’ve played my part, like everyone. Everyone’s done well this year. It’s just disappointing, the way it’s finished (for me). I would have loved to have played.

"Maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe someone else will come in and have a good game. It’s not about me, it’s about the team getting promoted, that’s the main thing. I’ve had a good year and I’ve enjoyed myself, but this is disappointing.

"If it was a bad challenge, a reckless challenge, I’d hold my hands up and say ‘it was a stupid challenge’ but I make challenges like that every single game and there’s nothing in there.

"I’m disappointed now but by Satuirday, I’ll be right behind the boys. We’ll get the win and we’ll get promoted and that’ll be just as good. It’ll be a brilliant day."

Michael Corcoran has served his three-game suspension and could replace Rance in central midfield on Saturday. Stacy Long is another option, while Shane Huke - a centre-back by trade - was deployed as a midfielder in the Kent Senior Cup final on Monday.

Brown admitted that Rance's tackle, which came so late in the game, was unwise.

He said: "It’s a tough one, because that’s how Dean Rance challenges. He tackles in a way where his feet don’t leave the ground, but his foot is at such an angle that it’s showing a stud.

"It wasn’t a red card in my opinion, it was a yellow. There was no malice in it, he didn’t catch him halfway up the shin and he got the ball first. Goldberg’s reaction didn’t help - it didn’t change the referee’s decision, he was going for that top pocket straight away - but it doesn’t help.

"It’s sad, because he’s absolutely devastated. He’s been a key player for us and he deserves to be playing in that final.

"It’s such a shame that the ref didn’t have a little think. He could have given himself five seconds to assess the state of the game and what’s at stake if he pulls a red card out. But if he honestly felt it was a red card challenge he has to give it.

"What they have to start assessing is, is that foot off the ground to stamp down on somebody, or is it sliding along the floor? Rancey tackles in a way where he slides along the floor. He’s never caught anybody in a bad way but if I flip that coin over, from a manager’s perspective we’ve got to tell Rancey that the sort of way he’s challenging, it does gather a lot of bookings across a season."

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