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Ebbsfleet United 0 Hartlepool United 1 match report: Fleet remain in National League relegation zone

Shotshy Ebbsfleet remain in the National League relegation zone after losing to Hartlepool on Saturday.

With many of the teams around them not in action due to the cold weather, the Fleet failed to take advantage with a lacklustre display against a Hartlepool team who had not kept a clean sheet in their previous 17 league games.

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

The visitors were keen to impress new head coach Kevin Phillips, the former Sunderland striker watched the game from the stands and was bizarrely announced in his position during the first half of the game.

Ebbsfleet made three changes from the side that beat Wealdstone a fortnight ago with a debut for Declan Skura while Luke O’Neill and Billy Clifford also started.

Hartlepool fielded an unchanged starting XI from the one that was knocked out by Hampton on penalties in the FA Trophy last weekend.

The visitors are due to appoint former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips as their new manager and he watched this from the stands having met the players around an hour before kick-off.

Skura, who played in a behind-closed doors friendly at Charlton last week, had a nervy start and was nearly left red-faced inside five minutes when his clearance from inside his own box hit a team-mate. But his blushes were spared when Hartlepool’s Anthony Mancini wastefully dragged his shot wide of the far post.

Ebbsfleet, as they did against Wealdstone, were again happy to concede possession and territory but the visitors were restricted to long-range shots until Joe Grey beat the offside trap just before the half-hour but could only shoot at keeper Mark Cousins from an angle.

It took Ebbsfleet 44 minutes to register a shot at goal, with two arriving inside a minute when first Billy Clifford’s low effort was saved by keeper Joel Dixon. He then had to produce a smarter save seconds later to turn around Darren McQueen’s left-foot shot from 20 yards.

Toby Edser fed lone Fleet striker Dominic Samuel in stoppage time but his shot was straight at the keeper.

The game came to life just before the hour mark when Clifford was caught on the ball and Mancini strode forward and hit a stunning 30-yard left-foot shot which went in off the crossbar to give Hartlepool the lead.

Ebbsfleet didn’t change formation or players until just 13 minutes were left when, without an attack worthy of the name in the second half, they belatedly introduced Omari Sterling-James and Ben Chapman and went to their more-familiar 3-5-2.

Immediately Sterling-James fizzed a dangerous cross along the six-yard box that no-one anticipated but the changes never ignited a late rally. Sterling-James’ free-kick hit the wall and fellow substitute Craig Tanner shot over from distance with a minute left.

Ebbsfleet: Cousins, O’Neill, Cisse, Skura, Kenlock, McQueen (Chapman 77mins), Edser, Clifford (Sterling-James 77mins), Wright (Tanner 83mins), Poleon, Samuel. Subs not used: Bingham, Ibe.

Hartlepool: Dixon, Hendrie, Onariase, Parkes, Ferguson, Wallace, Featherstone, Crawford, Mancini (Stephenson 80mins), Grey, Duffus (Wreh 86mins). Subs not used: Jameson, Pruti, Dolan.

Referee: Gary Parsons.

Attendance: 1,547 (162 away).

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