Ebbsfleet United 1 Folkestone Invicta 0
Ebbsfleet winger Anthony Cook gets his cross in (Pic: Andy Payton)
Ebbsfleet are through to the FA Cup third qualifying round after an unconvincing win over Kent rivals Folkestone.
Daryl McMahon's early goal proved to be the winner at Stonebridge Road, although the Ryman League Division 1 South visitors gave as good as they got and could easily have forced a replay.
After five weeks out with a back injury, Ben May finally made his full Fleet debut. The former Dover striker took the place of Cambridge United loanee Andy Pugh, not allowed to play by his parent club to avoid him becoming cup-tied.
Fleet full-back Osei Sankofa also was also handed a full debut and there was a rare start for Tom Phipp in midfield.
Folkestone made four enforced changes from the team which drew 1-1 with Eastbourne Town in midweek. The most notable inclusion was that of teenage goalkeeper Tom Hadler, brought in for the cup-tied Tim Roberts. Invicta boss Neil Cugley also fielded Nat Blanks, Roland Edge and Steve Harper in place of Chris Elliott (suspended), Michael Yianni (cup-tied) and Jake Beecroft (unavailable).
Daryl McMahon (Pic: Andy Payton)
Given his side's poor home form this season, Fleet manager Steve Brown would have been praying for an early goal to ease the tension at Stonebridge Road.
And he got one with just five minutes on the clock. McMahon (pictured) curled in a free-kick from wide on the right and the inexperienced Hadler was rooted to his line as the ball drifted across him and all the way into the far corner.
That lifted the home crowd and May almost made it 2-0, craning his neck to head Anthony Cook's right-wing cross just past the post.
Sankofa then pulled the ball back for Cook, who shot wide.
At the other end, Folkestone reminded their Skrill South hosts they weren't about to roll over when Harper's shot from the corner of the box deflected behind.
McMahon tried to catch out Hadler with a cheeky lob, his effort beating the goalkeeper but dropping onto the roof of the net.
And a clever knockdown from May set up his former Dover strike partner Billy Bricknell, who crashed a powerful shot just wide.
When the visitors failed to clear another McMahon set-piece, Bricknell turned the ball back across goal and Paul Lorraine looked certain to score, only for a diving Invicta defender to block his shot.
The chances kept coming and Huke's header from a McMahon corner had to be scrambled off the line.
Folkestone spent much of the half on the defensive, but they did pose some problems going forward. Dane Luchford's pace got him in behind the Fleet backline but his shot lacked accuracy and flew into the crowd.
A second Fleet goal early in the second period would have put the game to bed but instead, Folkestone went agonisingly close to levelling the tie.
Luchford's pace, and some slack defending, saw the Invicta forward find space in the box and his shot beat Edwards, hit the inside of the far post and rolled across the line before the home side cleared the danger.
And the longer the game went on, the more anxious Ebbsfleet and the home fans became. Folkestone fed off this, putting some neat passing moves together and gaining the territorial advantage.
Roland Edge tries to get Folkestone back in the game (Pic: Andy Payton)
Frankie Chappell was allowed a free header in the box from a left-wing corner but he directed his effort straight at Edwards.
Ebbsfleet were giving the ball away cheaply, although they could have made it 2-0 when Cook's cross dropped just too far in front of substitute Michael Thalassitis.
Luchford, a real thorn in the side of the Fleet defence, got another sight of goal but passed a weak effort into Edwards' hands.
A right-footed shot from McMahon flashed wide and substitute Dominic Green then drilled an effort across the face of goal as the Fleet looked to rubber-stamp the result.
And only a superb block from Chappell stopped Bricknell from driving home a second goal from six yards after Cook's cross had dropped at his feet.
But they had to settle for a 1-0 win, while Folkestone left north Kent with their heads held high.
Next up for the Fleet is a Kent Senior Cup tie at Sittingbourne on Tuesday, while Folkestone are back in action next Saturday when they host Waltham Forest in the FA Trophy preliminary round.
Ebbsfleet: Edwards; Sankofa, Lorraine, Huke, Palmer; Cook, McMahon, Rance, Phipp (Green 59mins); May (Thalassitis 65mins), Bricknell. Subs not used: Howe, Hall, Osborn, Fakinos.
Folkestone: Hadler; Vincent, Friend, Chappell, Blanks; Stevenson, Edge (Ter Horst 84mins), Everitt (Dryden 77mins), Newman; Luchford, Harper. Subs not used: Austin, Tamfing, Egan, Hayward.
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