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Ebbsfleet United boss Danny Searle on 1-1 National League draw against Southend United in front of bumper crowd of more than 4,000 at Stonebridge Road

Manager Danny Searle felt Ebbsfleet were the better team for large spells of their National League draw with in-form Southend on Good Friday.

Substitute Dominic Poleon struck less than 10 minutes after coming on in front of a bumper crowd at Stonebridge Road after forward Harry Cardwell had flicked home his 17th league goal of the season for Kevin Maher’s Shrimpers in the first half.

Ebbsfleet boss Danny Searle. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC
Ebbsfleet boss Danny Searle. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC

Searle, whose troops are now four points clear of the relegation zone, said: “They’re a really good side. You can see their quality.

“Their bench is strong and there’s a certain amount of players that weren’t even involved today, which you are looking at and thinking ‘They’ve got a really good core of players.’

“For us to have any chance of getting anything out of the game, we had to play at our best - and I thought we were very good.

“To be honest, for large parts, I thought we were the better side.”

A mistake presented Ebbsfleet top scorer Poleon with a chance and he kept his cool to net his 16th goal of the campaign to equalise as it finished 1-1, despite visitors Southend extending their unbeaten run to 12 matches.

Report: Ebbsfleet 1-1 Southend

“Dom has got that quality in abundance,” noted Searle, whose Fleet side are still unbeaten at home since he took charge last month.

“Like I’ve said to quite a few people, we have got three real quality forwards in the building. We’re fortunate.

“When the other two maybe aren’t putting the ball in the back of the net, we’ve got one that will come on.”

The game was played in front of a crowd of 4,019 - an attendance which included a massive away following of 1,795 - which was the biggest crowd at Stonebridge Road for many years.

Searle stated: “This is why you want to play football, isn’t it?

“As a manager, you want to be in front of big crowds and you want to see entertaining football. If you are a neutral watching today, that’s a really good game of football.

“It got a bit hectic at times - a bit end-to-end - which I wasn’t too pleased with.

“But, in general, I think we have controlled most of the game.”

The Fleet started brightly, only to fall behind as Cardwell flicked home a free-kick by Oli Coker on 20 minutes.

Searle admitted: “It took the wind out of our sails a little bit.

“But the one thing that this group has got is a real resilience. I wasn’t worried - and that was the message at half-time.

“(I said) ‘Just relax, we will be fine, we will get the goal and, if we work as hard as we can do, we will probably get the second.’ Thankfully, we did get the equaliser.”

Playmaker Toby Edser had Ebbsfleet’s first chance inside the opening minute and then he set up Ben Chapman, who hit the crossbar before the Shrimpers went in front.

“We back them to score in those situations,” said Searle.

“To be fair with Toby’s one, the keeper makes a fantastic save. He’s a quality keeper, his distribution is really good, and he makes a great save there.

“If we go 1-0 up, I’m confident that we can go on and win the game. But that wasn’t to be.

“We conceded from a set-piece. We knew they would be a threat from them because they’re a very big side.

“But at the end of the day, we got a really valuable point.”

Referee Lauren Impey also dismissed three first-half home penalty appeals - the pick of which saw forward Dominic Samuel go down.

But a philosophical Searle said: “It’s always difficult when you’re officiating a game, depending on your positioning when tackles are made and whatnot. The bottom line is we didn’t get them.

“Everyone just needed to settle down, leave the referee alone, and just focus on our game.

“To be fair, I thought, in the second half, we did that for the majority of it.”

There was nearly a dramatic twist and late Ebbsfleet disappointment in injury time.

A booming clearance by Southend keeper Collin Andeng-Ndi was sliced by home defender Myles Kenlock but back-tracking Ebbsfleet No.1 Mark Cousins made a fantastic - if a little unexpected - save and was first to the loose ball to help preserve a point.

Searle, who joked he would fine Kenlock for what nearly proved a costly error, added: “Couso, wow, what great reactions!

“Then, the whereabouts to deal with the second-ball, as well. That’s brilliant.”

The Fleet will visit mid-table Dagenham & Redbridge, 4-1 victors at Boreham Wood on Friday, on Easter Monday.

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