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Boreham Wood 0 Ebbsfleet United 0 match report: Fleet stay up in National League but Boreham Wood are relegated

Ebbsfleet survived on the final day of the National League season after claiming a goalless draw at Boreham Wood on Saturday lunchtime.

The result saw Wood relegated but it was all about the remarkable turnaround under Danny Searle for the Fleet as they stayed up against the odds.

Ebbsfleet battle it out against Boreham Wood on the final day of the season. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC
Ebbsfleet battle it out against Boreham Wood on the final day of the season. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC

Searle has revitalised the Fleet since his arrival in February and while they didn’t win any of their last four games in the end, two goalless draws in their last two away games were enough to keep them up.

It meant Searle picked up 24 points from 15 games as the Fleet stayed up with 54 points in 19th. Below them were York (53) but Boreham Wood went down on 52 points, along with already-relegated Oxford City, Kidderminster and Dorking Wanderers.

Ebbsfleet made two changes from the side that drew with FC Halifax in midweek. Top scorer Dominic Poleon and Billy Clifford returned to the starting XI while Luke O’Neill and Dominic Samuel were on the bench after injury.

It was a final game in charge of Boreham Wood for long-serving boss Luke Garrard but his team were unable to send him off in style.

The first chance fell to the home side when a long throw-in - their main attacking weapon via ex-Fleet defender Chris Bush - fell to another former Ebbsfleet man in Jack Payne but his shot was deflected just wide of the upright.

Ebbsfleet created the better openings in the first 45 minutes. Ben Chapman’s cross was eventually worked to Poleon but he shot high and wide.

Poleon soon found his range, though, and forced keeper Nathan Ashmore - another former Fleet man - into action as he had to push his low drive away from 25 yards.

Boreham Wood probably had the edge physically so the Fleet had to be cute with their corner routines - and they were. The first two from the right nearly fell perfectly at the near post for a shot on goal. Then Poleon’s shot was deflected just out of the path of Bryant Bilongo at the far post.

The closest the Fleet came was on 26 minutes when Bingham started and nearly finished a move as he collected Bilongo’s pass behind the defender and his deflected cross-shot forced an excellent reflex save at the near post by Ashmore.

Ebbsfleet were dealt a major blow on the half-hour when the excellent on-loan Wycombe defender Declan Skura saw his involvement curtailed by a groin injury. O’Neill was an experienced head to bring on in his place, however.

Toby Edser shot wide from the edge of the box but it was a case of so far, so good for Ebbsfleet at the break. Although no doubt many of the away fans knew at the back of their minds that just one mistake at any point in the second half would send them hurtling towards the relegation trapdoor.

Ashmore nearly gave the Fleet a helping hand towards safety just four minutes into the second half when the impressive Bilongo beat two men down the left. His near-post cross was fumbled by the Wood keeper who was fortunate to see the ball bounce just wide of the upright.

Wood thought they’d gone ahead on the hour. The ball was recycled after a long throw-in from Bush but the referee had already blown for a foul in the six-yard box by the time the home side finally turned it home.

Two minutes later, Poleon latched on to a wayward Wood defensive pass and advanced to the edge of the box before his low drive was well saved by Ashmore.

Ebbsfleet keeper Mark Cousins then responded with his first serious save of the afternoon, doing well to push away substitute Angelo Balanta’s shot.

Sousa’s corner was headed over by Billy Sass-Davies and then, at the other end, Poleon’s near-post shot from Chapman’s centre didn’t have enough power to get beyond Ashmore.

Wood had a penalty appeal turned down and they introduced another former Ebbsfleet man in forward Tyrone Marsh as time started to run out for them, knowing they had to score to have a chance of staying up.

Marsh’s free-kick lacked power from 30 yards and then Kabango Tshimanga had the ball in the net for the home side but the flag was already up for offside.

Ebbsfleet had a great opportunity to secure their safety with five minutes left when Edser set up Chapman, who sliced his shot wide from inside the area.

Poleon had given way to Samuel for the last 20 minutes and, while Wood did put more bodies forward, the gameplan worked perfectly for the Fleet with Samuel able to relieve the pressure and hold the ball up nicely. Samuel nearly put the Fleet ahead at the death but he forced a good save from Ashmore after being afforded space to advance with the ball.

The fourth official indicated four added minutes as the home side threw virtually everyone forward. They had one great chance on 93 minutes but Cousins saved smartly to deny Kewsi Appiah.

The final whistle saw jubilant scenes among the away players and supporters but you couldn’t help thinking that Boreham Wood needed to be more positive and play a better style of football on such an outstanding playing surface.

It was also worth noting the excellent performance of Robert Massey-Ellis - a calm head on a day full of emotions, his performance was a far cry away from some of the officiating seen at this level at the start of the season.

Boreham Wood: Ashmore, Ilesanmi, Payne (Marsh 77mins), Bush, Sagaf (Balanta 57mins), Ndlovu, Agbontohoma, Tshimanga, Sousa, Sass-Davies (Appiah 85mins), Robinson. Subs not used: Coxe, Fyfield.

Ebbsfleet: Cousins, Fogarty, Skura (O’Neill 30mins), Kenlock, Chapman, Clifford, Wright, Edser, Bilongo, Bingham (Coulthirst 90mins), Poleon (Samuel 72mins). Subs not used: Tanner, Domi.

Referee: Robert Massey-Ellis.

Attendance: 3,011 (670 away).

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