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Ebbsfleet United manager Dennis Kutrieb says team selection was dictated by Covid and self-isolation issues against Billericay

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Ebbsfleet manager Dennis Kutrieb said his selection options were restricted by Covid against Billericay on Tuesday.

The Fleet returned to National League South action with a goalless draw against the division’s bottom side, just 48 hours after the postponed Boxing Day derby at Dartford.

Adam Mekki is floored by a Billericay challenge on Tuesday. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC (53987230)
Adam Mekki is floored by a Billericay challenge on Tuesday. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC (53987230)

That game was called off because the Fleet were unable to field a team, but enough players came out of self-isolation for them to face Billericay.

Kutrieb started Adam Mekki in an unfamiliar centre-forward role alongside Rakish Bingham before introducing Dominic Poleon and Elliott Romain after the break.

When asked how much his team selection was influenced by off-field events, Kutrieb said: “I would say nearly 100 per cent. We made all the decisions due to self-isolation, due to Covid - who had Covid and who just had to self-isolate, who suffered a bit more from the illness.

“To be honest that was the only decision, but hopefully everyone should be back for Sunday.

“It was definitely the right decision (to play Billericay) because I don’t like to play games (such as) we could play but we don’t want to play. I don’t like that sort of behaviour.

“For us it was clear, if the boys were out of self-isolation, even if it’s going to be tough, then we play the game because we don’t want to be the team that plays games if they don’t think it’s suitable at the moment.

“We had just one training session so it was tough for the boys but that’s the situation we are in and what we had to deal with.”

It does mean that Ebbsfleet now have 90 minutes in their legs ahead of the much-anticipated derby with Dartford, which takes place at Stonebridge Road this Sunday (3pm).

“It was better to play a game,” acknowledged the Fleet boss.

“Of course Billericay are not the same team now and they will get (more) points easily because they have strong players now but it’s better for us to play the game.

“It was a little rusty in the first half because the boys were sitting at home for one week. If I had a jog outside in the park after a week indoors, I would struggle, and they have to play 90 minutes.

“Of course it’s tough and different but we have to deal with it and that’s what we do.

“We’re not angry now, that’s the situation and we knew it was going to be a tough game for us as not everyone was back on track and fit for 90 minutes.

“But we’ll take it as it comes and we have to be careful with the boys anyway.

“We can tell them to play 90 minutes but I’m not sure if I would like it, I don’t think I’d want to play 90 minutes after I’ve suffered (Covid) or after I’ve sat at home for a week. It can be dangerous as well so we have to take care of them.”

Looking ahead to the Dartford match, Kutrieb again stressed that it will not have any greater significance than any other game this season.

He’s also hoping that his team will have lady luck on their

side at some stage this season after feeling they’ve not had the rub of the green in some matches.

“It’s not one game against Dartford, it’s the whole season,” he added. “We’ve played 17 games so there’s still more than 50 per cent to go, so it’s not about one game or two games.

“Of course it hurts when you drop points like we did against Billericay or Chelmsford, games we were on top in and had enough chances.

“But perhaps one day the luck that we haven’t had so far will happen and we’ll score a scrappy goal and a winner when an opponent is on top of us.

“What happened to us at Oxford City, we haven’t had yet this season. But perhaps one day we’ll have it and get a winner ourselves.”

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