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Ebbsfleet United 0 Billericay Town 0 match report: Fleet miss chance to go top

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Ebbsfleet were left frustrated by bottom side Billericay in National League South on Tuesday.

Visiting keeper Rhys Lovett produced an outstanding performance in the second half to keep the Fleet at bay as they missed out on the chance to go top of the table.

Ebbsfleet manager Dennis Kutrieb. Picture: Chris Davey (52465783)
Ebbsfleet manager Dennis Kutrieb. Picture: Chris Davey (52465783)

The Fleet made two changes from the team that beat Bath 3-0 in their previous game with Adam Mekki and Alfie Egan replacing Dominic Poleon and Elliott Romain, who were only on the bench.

Ebbsfleet boss Dennis Kutrieb was able to field a full side following the Boxing Day postponement with players coming out of isolation in the previous 24 hours, enabling him to name a squad of 16.

The day started with Ebbsfleet, Dartford and Maidstone knowing victory could take them above leaders Oxford City at the top of the table.

The match pitted the Fleet, who have been inactive for 10 days, up against a Billericay team who had to play over half a game with 10 men just two days earlier. Perhaps it was to be expected that Fleet would take some time to get going while Billericay would fade as the game wore on.

An even first half saw chances at both ends. An early mix-up between Fleet keeper Chris Haigh and Sido Jombati let in Bagasan Graham but his low shot was blocked by the retreating Jombati.

Rakish Bingham, Sefa Kahraman and Alfie Egan all had shots at goal at the other end while Fleet collected two bookings in as many minutes when referee Alex Blake cautioned Kahraman and Ben Chapman for fouls.

Greg Cundle’s near-post effort was saved low down before Fleet nearly unlocked the Billericay defence when a lovely training ground corner saw a number of stepovers, only for keeper Lovett to get down well to block Bingham’s right-foot shot from 12 yards.

Jack Munns shot over for the visitors, who lost Graham to injury before the break.

It was one-way traffic in the second half with Fleet pushing Billericay back, the visitors defending on the edge of their own box with 11 men behind the ball for long periods.

Bingham was twice denied by the excellent Lovett before substitute Craig Tanner’s delightful long ball picked out the Fleet striker who volleyed wide of the upright.

The visitors ran the clock down, players going down regularly with injuries to break up the play and keeper Lovett taking an age over goal kicks as referee Blake did nothing to hurry the game up - highlighted by a two-minute break for one substitution.

Billericay thought they won it with six minutes left but the offside flag ruled out substitute Shaq Coulthirst’s low finish after Munns' through ball.

Lovett was at full stretch to keep out Tanner’s 20-yard drive at the other end as Fleet had one last push for victory.

In five minutes of stoppage time they were camped in the Billericay area but Poleon’s shot was blocked and Sido Jombati’s drive forced another magnificent stop from Lovett.

Ebbsfleet: Haigh, Kahraman (Poleon 46mins), Jombati, Solly, Chapman, Cundle, N’Guessan, Egan (Romain 71mins), Paxman, Mekki (Tanner 59mins), Bingham. Subs not used: Firth, Krasniqi.

Billericay: Lovett, Stevenson, Ekpiteta, Chambers, Smile, Munns (Ochieng 73mins), Akinwande, Graham (Pinto 38mins), Hinds, Wabo (Coulthirst 77mins), Wright. Sub not used: Wilson.

Referee: Alex Blake.

Attendance: 1,122.

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