Published: 16:50, 22 January 2022
| Updated: 19:00, 22 January 2022
Ebbsfleet’s title hopes were dealt a significant blow as they were crushed at leaders Dorking Wanderers on Saturday.
Fleet had to play nearly all the game with 10 men after Sefa Kahraman’s early red card for two cautions but the hosts ran riot after the break to extend their advantage at the top of National League South.
Ebbsfleet made three changes from the team that won at Hemel Hempstead a fortnight earlier, Alex Finney, Elliott Romain and Kahraman all coming into the side.
It was the visitors who started brightly and they should have scored inside three minutes - only for former Gillingham defender Barry Fuller to make a double goalline clearance.
Tobi Adebayo-Rowling crossed from the right, Dominic Poleon’s initial effort was blocked on the line and then Alfie Egan looked destined to score only for Fuller to again somehow clear.
The game turned on 16 minutes. Already booked for a foul on Wes Fogden on six minutes, Fleet defender Kahraman felled Matt Briggs on the edge of the box after the Dorking wideman skipped past three earlier challenges.
Referee Jason Richardson strolled over and produced a second yellow card to leave the Fleet with an uphill task.
Fleet boss Dennis Kutrieb was booked for dissent as he protested the decision and only the woodwork prevented the visitors going behind when ex-Gills midfielder Darren Oldaker hit the 20-yard free-kick against the crossbar.
The referee showed his inconsistency minutes later when Ed Harris was adjudged to have handled on the edge of his own box, with no booking shown. Craig Tanner put the free-kick into the defensive wall.
Finney played on the left side of the Fleet defence but never looked comfortable and he was exposed as Dorking took the lead on 33 minutes. Finney backed off and allowed Briggs to get into the penalty area, before drilling a low right-foot shot into the far corner.
Sido Jombati picked up a yellow card five minutes before the break and didn’t see the half out as injury cut short his afternoon, meaning Finney was joined in defence by Chris Solly and substitute Ben Chapman as the Fleet managed to get to half-time just one goal in arrears.
It was no surprise that Adam Mekki came on the break for Finney, who struggled to keep up with Dorking’s impressive attacking options down the right.
Chapman also found Briggs hard to deal with, picking up a yellow card for bringing the Dorking man down - minutes after ironic cheers from the visiting fans when Ed Harris was cautioned for the hosts for a foul on Elliott Romain.
Briggs was involved again as Dorking doubled their lead 10 minutes into the second half. He again ran at the Fleet defence and when his low shot was only parried by keeper Haigh, Fogden was there in an instant to convert from close range.
Briggs added the third on the hour mark, brilliantly firing in first time after Alfie Rutherford’s unselfish lay-off for the goal of the game.
Briggs - who had scored only four goals all season previously - duly completed his hat-trick five minutes later, an almost carbon copy of his two previous strikes as he found the far corner beyond the hapless Haigh.
Fleet pulled one back with 11 minutes when two substitutes combined, Lee Martin crossing for Mekki to loop his header over keeper Dan Lincoln.
An injury to the tireless Rakish Bingham late on saw the Fleet actually finish with nine men as he was unable to continue, and their misery as completed in the 90th minute as Rutherford converted his 23rd goal of the season to wrap up a stunning afternoon for Dorking.
Dorking: Lincoln, Fuller, Harris, Cheadle, Oldaker (El-Abd 56mins), McManus, J Taylor, Fogden (B Taylor 70mins), Wheeler (McShane 56mins), Briggs, Rutherford. Subs not used: Muitt, Gallagher.
Ebbsfleet: Haigh, Kahraman, Jombati (Chapman 43mins), Finney (Mekki 46mins), Adebayo-Rowling, Egan, Solly, Bingham, Tanner, Poleon (L Martin 61mins), Romain. Subs not used: Firth, Paxman.
Referee: Jason Richardson.