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Ebbsfleet United 1 Hungerford Town 2 match report: Elliott Romain scores but Joe Martin gets red card for Ebbsfleet

Ten-man Ebbsfleet suffered their fourth home defeat of the season in National League South to Hungerford on Saturday.

The visitors were also reduced to 10 men late on as referee Joel Mannix ensured everyone was talking about him after the game.

Ebbsfleet manager Dennis Kutrieb. Picture: Chris Davey
Ebbsfleet manager Dennis Kutrieb. Picture: Chris Davey

Fleet made two changes from the team that drew with Dorking last weekend, bringing Lee Martin and Elliott Romain into the side.

The home side dominated the opening 20 minutes, and could have easily wrapped up the points before the game’s first goal had even arrived.

Rakish Bingham’s left-foot shot was saved by the legs of keeper Luke Cairney, Romain headed over a Jack Paxman centre and then Cairney’s throw went straight to Paxman who again fed Bingham but his shot was kept out.

Romain’s long-range drive was parried by Cairney with Bingham unable to turn in the rebound. Cairney pushed out Craig Tanner’s free-kick and Hungerford striker Ryan Seager, who normally does his best work in the other penalty area, reacted first to clear the loose ball with Romain closing in.

Hungerford took the lead against the run of play on 21 minutes with a classic counter-attack goal. Paxman was left one-on-one at the back as the visitors broke from a free-kick and Sol Wanjau-Smith went clean through.

The Hungerford forward rounded keeper Louie Moulden but then put his right-foot shot against the post. Seager reacted quickest, however, and expertly converted his 27th goal of the season from the loose ball, beating both Moulden and the covering defender on the line.

Ebbsfleet took just five minutes to respond. Tanner’s free-kick was blocked by the visiting defence but the ball fell perfectly for Romain to fire in beyond Cairney.

The visiting keeper was again called into action before the break as he pushed behind Bingham’s header from a deep Tanner centre and pushed behind Lee Martin's drive.

James Rusby went into the book on the stroke of half-time for a needless late challenge on Moulden - it was to later prove costly for the visiting captain.

Fleet introduced leading scorer Dominic Poleon for Ben Chapman at the break, although the second half didn’t get under way until 4.08pm with referee Mannix clearly not in a rush to get the game moving forward as the first half also failed to begin on time.

A loose touch by Bingham nearly presented Callum Willmoth with a goal but his shot from the edge of the box hit the side netting.

Fleet were reduced to 10 men on 64 minutes. Joe Martin was shown a yellow card for a foul on Wanjau-Smith but he reacted by raising his arm in the direction of Jake Evans, who made the most of the contact.

Referee Mannix, as is his way, took an age before showing two yellow cards in quick succession after being surrounded by numerous Hungerford players.

Fleet lasted just five minutes before going behind. Christian N’Guessan tripped Wanjau-Smith in the box and Seager never looked like missing as he put his penalty spot down the middle of Moulden’s goal.

Home boss Dennis Kutrieb immediately introduced loan defender Franklin Domi for his debut with Lee Martin making way.

Rusby - booked for that needless challenge at the end of the first half - then made it 10-a-side after a foul on the edge of his own penalty area. Again, referee Mannix took an absolute age to show the second yellow card as players from both sides surrounded him. It then took Rusby even longer to make his way off the pitch as the referee initially directed him to the wrong side of the ground before realising his error.

The crowd, not impressed by a number of decisions from the officials throughout, turned up the volume as Fleet pushed for an equaliser. But they were unable to fashion another chance until N'Guessan shot over late on and lost ground on the teams amongst them in the mix-up for play-off places.

Ebbsfleet: Moulden, Jombati, Solly, J Martin, Paxman, N’Guessan, Chapman (Poleon 46mins), L Martin (Domi 70mins), Tanner (Wood 74mins), Bingham, Romain. Subs not used: Haigh, Mekki.

Hungerford: Cairney, Angell, Rusby, Willmoth, Seager (McGrory 90mins), Evans (Smith 84mins), Ram, Wanjau-Smith (Ofori-Acheampong 90mins), Berry-Hargreaves, Tyler, Bailey. Subs not used: Emmerson, Herbert.

Referee: Joel Mannix.

Attendance: 1,010.

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