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Dorking Wanderers 3 Ebbsfleet United 2 aet match report: National League South play-off final

All eyes were on referee Jason Richardson’s timekeeping as Ebbsfleet were denied promotion to the National League in dramatic fashion on Saturday.

The Fleet thought they had won their play-off final at Dorking Wanderers thanks to Craig Tanner’s 92nd-minute goal.

Rakish Bingham puts Ebbsfleet ahead at Dorking on Saturday. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Rakish Bingham puts Ebbsfleet ahead at Dorking on Saturday. Picture: Barry Goodwin

But Dorking levelled in the 99th minute - when Fleet fans thought the final whistle should have long been blown.

Dorking then won it in extra-time thanks to Alfie Rutherford’s 36th goal of the season.

The Fleet were beaten 5-1 at Dorking when the teams met in the league in January, and boss Kutrieb’s side reflected that game to a degree.

He made two changes from the semi-final win over Chippenham, bringing in Joe Martin to add defensive steel down the left as well as the legs of Alfie Egan in midfield.

Dorking made one change from the side that defeated Oxford City in their semi-final, with Dan Gallagher replacing Ed Harris.

Just as they did in the league clash, the Fleet settled quickest and dominated the early exchanges. Jack Paxman fed Rakish Bingham inside the fifth minute but the Fleet striker was unable to keep his balance and get a shot away.

Chris Solly’s left-wing corner hit the top of the crossbar and Sido Jombati headed wide Ben Chapman’s centre - all inside the first 10 minutes.

The Fleet were guilty of trying to walk the ball in following a counter attack. Chapman crossed to the far post and Paxman tried to put it on a plate for his team-mate instead of going for goal at the far post.

Ebbsfleet’s dominance was rewarded on 22 minutes, a perfectly weighted ball behind Jordan Cheadle by the impressive Paxman sent Bingham through on goal and he took his time before firing low beyond Dan Lincoln.

Dorking twice responded in similar fashion, getting behind Martin down the right wing. Jason Prior headed over from Jimmy Muitt’s cross and then Alfie Rutherford made space for himself in the box but was thwarted by an excellent Louie Moulden save.

Referee Jason Richardson, who gave Sefa Kahraman two yellow cards in 20 minutes when the teams met in the league, kept his cards in his pocket longer than usual, both Chapman and Bingham avoided yellow cards.

Both benches claimed their man was fouled when Dan Gallagher and Paxman went for a 50/50. Richardson gave Dorking the free-kick and Paxman a yellow card.

Dorking, on the backfoot for long period of the half, levelled just three minutes before the break with a goal that Fleet could have easily defended. Jombati missed the first header as Prior and Rutherford combined to set up James McShane, his midfield run untracked and he produced a lovely finish past Moulden.

Ebbsfleet celebrate after Rakish Bingham put them ahead in the first half. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Ebbsfleet celebrate after Rakish Bingham put them ahead in the first half. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Martin went into the book 10 minutes after the break for a foul on Muitt, although he furiously protested his innocence to the referee. He was quickly followed by Dorking’s Josh Taylor for a foul on substitute Lee Martin.

Ebbsfleet didn’t have the same fluidity as in the first half and while Dorking had more of the ball and territorial advantage they were unable to fashion any clear-cut chances.

Ebbsfleet thought they had won it two minutes into stoppage time when the Feet broke clear through Dominic Poleon, whose shot hit the post. But he had the presence of mind to pick out Tanner on the edge of the box and he fired into the bottom corner.

That was two minutes into the six minutes added on but the game was then delayed by two minutes due to a smoke bomb being thrown onto the pitch by the away fans.

There were no more noticeable stoppages and the game was eight minutes and 54 seconds into stoppage time when Moore - a former Fleet player - bundled home an equaliser for Dorking to break Fleet hearts.

More delays followed as the home fans sent smoke bombs onto the pitch, not the greatest idea at the best of time - but even more so on a plastic pitch!

It means referee Richardson - who should never have been put into the position of doing this game after his controversial red card in the league game - ended up playing over 11 minutes of stoppage time instead of the indicated six.

That meant extra-time and Dorking went ahead for the first time on 97 minutes when Darren Oldaker sliced open the Fleet defence and Kane Wills crossed for Alfie Rutherford to convert at the far post.

Christian N’Guessan’s deflected shot lacked enough power to trouble Lincoln as the Fleet looked to respond and Barry Fuller blocked Egan’s shot.

Poleon shot wide from distance in the second half of extra-time and N’Guessan headed onto the roof of the net but Ebbsfleet never really looked like finding a late equaliser of their own.

Ebbsfleet: Moulden, Jombati, Solly, Finney, Chapman, Egan, N’Guessan, Paxman, J Martin (Tanner 78mins), Romain (L Martin 61mins, Coulthirst 99mins), Bingham (Poleon 87mins). Subs not used: Haigh.

Dorking: Lincoln, Cheadle (Wills 90mins), Gallagher, Fuller, Muitt (B Taylor 73mins), Wheeler (Harris 88mins), McShane, J Taylor, Moore, Prior (Oldaker 87mins), Rutherford. Subs not used: El-Abd.

Referee: Jason Richardson.

Attendance: 3,000.

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