Published: 17:39, 15 May 2022
| Updated: 10:00, 17 May 2022
Substitute Lee Martin fired Ebbsfleet into the National League South play-off final after finally breaking Chippenham’s resistance on Sunday.
The Fleet needed extra-time to progress but they will now travel to Dorking Wanderers in Saturday’s play-off final with the winners being promoted to the National League.
Having finished third in the league, the cards were stacked in Ebbsfleet’s favour against a side who went through 120 minutes of football less than 72 hours earlier.
There was no Craig Tanner for the Fleet, with boss Dennis Kutrieb fielding all four recognised strikers in his starting line-up, including Elliott Romain in midfield alongside Christian N’Guessan.
Chippenham named an unchanged team from the side that won on penalties at Dartford in the eliminator on Thursday night following a goalless draw after extra-time.
The Fleet settled quickest and thought they had an early lead but the offside flag was up long before Shaq Coulthirst turned in Jack Paxman’s cross.
Coulthirst ran to the byline but his cross was cleared behind by visiting skipper Kieran Parselle, while Rakish Bingham - playing in a deeper role - shot straight at keeper Will Henry from 20 yards.
Fleet had plenty of the ball without creating many chances, although the offside flag thwarted them again before the break. Jack Paxman drove into the area and exchanged passes with Dominic Poleon but the flag was up again when he collected the return ball and beat Henry at his near post.
N’Guessan then skipped past three challenges and drove into the box before going down but Fleet’s penalty appeals were turned down by referee Sam Mulhall.
Chippenham, having defended for most of the half, almost unlocked the Fleet defence just before the break but Spencer Hamilton’s cross into the area was unable to pick out a team-mate.
Not surprisingly given extra-time just three days earlier, Chippenham looked a little leggy at times. Up front Jordan Young got no change out of the Fleet defence and his frustrations got the better of him on the stroke of half-time but, amazingly, the referee did not punish his act of petulance as he foolishly booted the ball into the crowd.
Ebbsfleet carried on where they left off after the break, Bingham shot over from 25 yards and Paxman drove into the box before seeing his shot deflected behind for a corner.
Chippenham were a threat at set plays but they were unable to build up any sustained pressure on the Fleet goal.
The home side needed to move the ball quicker, the introduction of Alfie Egan allowed Bingham to push further forward. But Chippenham’s defensive play is a well-oiled machine, and even with tired minds and bodies they were able to keep an excellent shape.
Ebbsfleet had another penalty appeal turned down as the game went into stoppage time and Bingham’s deflected effort looped just over the bar. It meant extra-time, the second time in four days for a Chippenham side that - once again - simply refused to buckle.
It took seven minutes of extra-time for Ebbsfleet to find the breakthrough. Poleon’s header found Paxman out wide and he attracted defenders to the ball before setting up Martin in space and he curled a right-foot shot into the far corner beyond Henry.
Martin nearly added a spectacular second goal on 110 minutes but his audacious 40-yard chip hit the crossbar with Henry back-pedalling.
Fleet took off Bingham for the final eight minutes, his replacement Franklin Domi being used as a makeshift forward.
The hosts successfully ran the clock down and the final whistle saw a pitch invasion from the home fans. It's a job half-done for the Fleet, whose fate will now be decided next weekend.
Ebbsfleet: Moulden, Jombati, Solly, Finney, Chapman, N’Guessan, Romain (L Martin 77mins), Paxman, Bingham (Domi 113mins), Coulthirst (Egan 64mins), Poleon (Mekki 101mins). Sub not used: Haigh.
Chippenham: Henry, Hamilton (Bradbury 114mins) Richards, Parselle, Greenslade, D’Abadia, Russe, Mehew (King 90mins), Dabre (Al-Husaini 104mins), Hanks, Young (Coppin 61mins). Sub not used: Lawal.
Referee: Sam Mulhall.