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Ebbsfleet United manager Dennis Kutrieb reacts to 1-0 National League South play-off semi-final win over Chippenham Town


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Ebbsfleet boss Dennis Kutrieb was confident his side would make the advantage of finishing third count in their favour against Chippenham.

The Fleet grabbed third spot in the final week of the National League season which meant they could watch on while Chippenham battled for 120 minutes at Dartford in Thursday's eliminator.

Fleet's Shaq Coulthirst is challenged by Chippenham's Danny Greenslade. Picture: Keith Gillard
Fleet's Shaq Coulthirst is challenged by Chippenham's Danny Greenslade. Picture: Keith Gillard

With less than 72 hours for the visitors to recover, Kutrieb knew his team were in the boxseat - assuming they didn't make any silly mistakes in Sunday's semi-final clash at Stonebridge Road.

"I think it was a deserved win in the end but it was a hard win and battle," said Kutrieb,

"That was what we prepared the boys for when we knew it was Chippenham. I was there (at Dartford) on Thursday and could see how much desire this team has and how much heart they have, how hard they fight for a result. They were well organised and we knew it would be exactly the same game.

"My hope was maybe we could score an early goal and that opens the game up, unfortunately we had two goals disallowed and maybe there was a penalty. But then when the second half starts and you don’t score, you need to make sure you stay composed and stay in the game and don’t concede a stupid goal.

"I knew, of course, we are a full-time side and they played on Thursday for 120 minutes so we will get chances to finish the game off. The boys were very calm and at the end well done to Lee Martin to put it in the back of the net, finally.

Elliott Romain wins the ball for Ebbsfleet against Chippenham. Picture: Keith Gillard
Elliott Romain wins the ball for Ebbsfleet against Chippenham. Picture: Keith Gillard

"Deep in my heart, I thought even if we had to go to extra-time it was just an advantage for us. We are fit, you can see that, and they played 120 minutes on Thursday. It’s obvious, we don’t need to talk about it, if there was an advantage for us or not - it was a massive advantage.

"You have to make sure that even if you have to go to extra-time, when the chance comes you need to punish them. We had a good spell in the last five minutes of normal time and I thought we might have got a winner then and not needed extra-time.

"But I’m not worried about my boys if they have to go 30 minutes extra, as I’ve told you the whole season, and you could see it today, there was not a massive difference or drop in our performance levels later in the game.

"I was still very confident but in football you never know, you can’t rely on anything but I was aware of the advantage and didn’t think if we went to extra-time that we’d be in big trouble."

Kutrieb went for his most attacking line-up as Ebbsfleet manager. He fielded all four strikers in his squad, albeit with Rakish Bingham and Elliott Romain featuring in midfield.

Ebbsfleet manager Dennis Kutrieb. Picture: Keith Gillard
Ebbsfleet manager Dennis Kutrieb. Picture: Keith Gillard

It was the complete opposite from the side he picked against Chippenham just a fortnight earlier when a defensive-looking Fleet team twice came from behind to draw 2-2.

"We wanted to do exactly the opposite from the first game here two weeks ago," explained the Fleet boss.

"In that game we sat too deep, had too many bodies behind their first line and we wanted to make sure with so many offensive players on the pitch that we found the right pockets and they stayed high up the pitch.

"I think it worked quite well but as long as they could run they closed the gaps well and were clever.

"It wasn’t that easy but I didn’t expect it to be an easy game. It’s a semi-final, you will never get an easy game in a play-off semi-final.

"We just needed to make sure we had the right balance between attacking and defending because sometimes if you attack too much, then you are very vulnerable for counter breaks.

"I thought we handled it quite well and there weren’t too many occasions that they had a clear-cut chance."

Rakish Bingham drives forward for the Fleet against Chippenham. Picture: Keith Gillard
Rakish Bingham drives forward for the Fleet against Chippenham. Picture: Keith Gillard

Ironically, Fleet ended up withdrawing all four strikers as the game went to extra-time. With tired bodies a factor, Kutrieb was keen to ensure they didn't pick up any injuries ahead of the play-off final at Dorking Wanderers this Saturday.

It meant substitues Adam Mekki and Franklin Domi were both used as makeshift strikers in the closing stages.

"It was not the idea in general but obviously I didn’t want to pick up any injuries by letting players go (longer than they can) when they’re already gone so you need to make your decisions," explained Kutrieb.

"Adam Mekki is experienced enough to play wherever he has to play, he did it outstanding over the whole season. Whenever we picked him, he tried to do his best and he will always put a shift in so I said just go up top and make sure they can’t pass the ball through.

"With Franklin, I could see that Raks was cramping as well so I didn’t want to risk anything and that’s the decision I have to make when I see players are not really able to continue.

"This is the most complicated time because if you don’t sub him off, he might pick up an injury and not be ready for the next game."

Ebbsfleet's Dominic Poleon finds his route to goal blocked on Sunday. Picture: Keith Gillard
Ebbsfleet's Dominic Poleon finds his route to goal blocked on Sunday. Picture: Keith Gillard
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