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Ebbsfleet United midfielder Dean Rance on the play-off win at Aldershot Town

Dean Rance has described the moment his penalty sent Ebbsfleet through to the National League play-off semi-finals.

Rance put his hand up to take Fleet's seventh spot-kick after Aldershot keeper Lewis Ward had hit the post with the score 4-4 in sudden death.

And the midfielder held his nerve to win a shootout which at one stage had seen Fleet trailing 3-1.

Dean Rance scored the winning penalty at Aldershot Picture: Andy Payton
Dean Rance scored the winning penalty at Aldershot Picture: Andy Payton

"It was relief more than anything," said Rance after his shot hit the back of the net.

"I didn't know I was taking one until the last minute. We had six penalty takers and then it was like 'who's taking next?'

"It was either going to be me or Dave Winfield and I wasn't letting him go in front of me."

Ebbsfleet were 1-0 down at the end of extra time when captain Winfield headed them level from Rance's cross.

Rance said: "We've shown, all season, that when our backs are against it, we come out fighting and it shows the character of the group.

"Going 1-0 down in extra time, to come back right at the end and even in the penalty shootout, we've got great character and we've shown it over years.

"That's one of our main attributes as a team.

"Against Macclesfield a few weeks ago, we were 2-0 down then and they were top of the league (and we came back to draw 2-2).

"We know we've got goals within our group and we know we can come back.

"We know we're fitter than most teams to be honest. When it gets to the hour mark, if it's still tight, we know we can take the game to them for the last half-hour. We even said that at half-time today. We said that once it hits the hour mark, they're not going to know what's hit them, we're going to go on and take the game to them.

"As you could see in the last half-an-hour of the 90 minutes, only one team looked like scoring."

Ebbsfleet had plenty of defending to do in the first half but as the game wore on, Aldershot ran out of ideas.

Rance said: "They're a good footballing team so you can't just go gung-ho. When they've got the ball, you have to be in a good shape otherwise they'll just pass through you.

We knew that when they've got the ball, if it's not on to press, we just got in our shape and as long as it's in front of us and not hurting us, we're pretty comfortable.

"We know when we get the ball back, we can keep it but also exploit the spaces. The game plan was to contain them and as the game went on, we got stronger and especially in the second half of the 90 minutes, we were looking like the team that was going to score."

Ebbsfleet, promoted a year ago are, are now one game away from the National League promotion final at Wembley.

Rance said: "A lot of people didn't expect us to be where we are now but we knew, as a group, from the beginning of the season, that we had it in us to achieve what we've done and we even thought we could finish higher than we did.

"We started slow and have got stronger as the season's gone on. We've gone under the radar, so people were looking at all the teams in front of us without realising we were on a little run below them.

"We know we've got good players, we know we're a good team, it was just about plugging away, getting results and when the time came to strike to get into the play-offs, we knew we were going to get there.

"We didn't come into the season expecting mid-table, we've come in expecting to do something this year. We expected to be where we are now so it's not a surprise to us as a group.

"It might have surprised a few people in other teams and fans because they just look at the name Ebbsfleet. They don't look at the players we've got and where the club's going."

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