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Ebbsfleet United 2 Chelmsford City 1 match report: Ebbsfleet finish third in National League South

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Two goals in five minutes at the start of the second half ensured Ebbsfleet finished third in National League South on Saturday.

Sido Jombati and Rakish Bingham netted as the Fleet put a nervy first-half display behind them in front of 1,637 fans. Although there was a late twist in the tale after former Fleet striker Charlie Sheringham netted with 18 minutes left.

Ebbsfleet manager Dennis Kutrieb. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC
Ebbsfleet manager Dennis Kutrieb. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC

It means the Fleet will host the play-off semi-final on Sunday, May 15 at Stonebridge Road against either Dartford or Chippenham, who will meet at Princes Park on Thursday night.

Chelmsford had the early chances and, with better finishing, could have been ahead. Deon Moore found himself in space 25 yards from goal but curled his shot the wrong wide of the upright.

Tom Blackwell cut inside from the left wing but his low drive was straight at Fleet keeper Louie Moulden before Blackwell’s free-kick was headed over by Cameron James.

It took the Fleet half an hour to register a shot on target, Jack Paxman feeding Shaquile Coulthirst, whose low near-post effort was fumbled behind for a corner by keeper Kai McKenzie-Lyle.

Fleet looked leggy, despite having had an extra day’s rest compared to Chelmsford and with boss Dennis Kutrieb making five changes from the team that won at Billericay on Bank Holiday Monday.

Craig Tanner’s shot was deflected wide before he set up Rakish Bingham, whose early left-foot shot found the car park behind the goal.

Paxman was flagged offside three times in a frustrating first half for the Fleet, who with Dartford establishing a two-goal lead at Eastbourne were facing the prospect of playing in Thursday’s play-off eliminator.

But the situation quickly changed after the break. Fleet immediately improved and nearly took the lead within a minute, but Chelmsford’s Louis Dunne produced a brilliant block to deny Tanner from 10 yards.

They went ahead on 49 minutes, though. Tanner took a short corner and delivered a right-foot cross which Jombati headed back where it came and beyond the dive of McKenzie-Lyle.

Fleet added a second just five minutes later. Bingham drove into the space created by Coulthirst’s clever movement and found the bottom corner from the edge of the box for his 16th goal of the season.

Chelmsford pulled a goal back with virtually their first attack of the second half when Sheringham slotted in against his former club after substitute Dara Dada took advantage of an Alfie Egan error.

And within a minute, Fleet keeper Moulden had to save with his legs to deny substitute Freddie Hockey an equaliser.

But that was about it for Chelmsford as an attacking force and the Fleet successfully saw out the remainder of the game to complete the campaign in third place.

Ebbsfleet: Moulden, Jombati, N’Guessan, Bingham, Wood, Tanner (L Martin 67mins), Romain (Egan 64mins), Solly, Paxman, Chapman, Coulthirst (Poleon 55mins). Subs not used: Haigh, Domi.

Chelmsford: McKenzie-Lyle, James, Oluwo, Dunne, Sheringham, Rush (Dada 67mins), Jackson (Hockey 55mins), Moore, Isaac, Vaz, Blackwell (Norton 88mins). Subs not used: Frimpong, Simpson.

Referee: Craig Scriven.

Attendance: 1,637.

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