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Ebbsfleet United 4 Wrexham 2 match report

By Steve Tervet

Ebbsfleet beat Wrexham in a Stonebridge Road classic to keep their National League play-off hopes alive.

Garry Hill's side were 3-0 up and rampant at half-time but it was a nerve-jangling affair in the second half as the Welsh side fought back.

It was quite a day off the pitch, too, with Fleet owner Dr Abdulla Al-Humaidi signing a document pre-match agreeing to meet requests made by the players, understood to relate to the payment of their wages.

Ebbsfleet celebrate their first goal against Wrexham Picture: Andy Jones
Ebbsfleet celebrate their first goal against Wrexham Picture: Andy Jones

Ebbsfleet didn't come out to warm-up before the game and there was a strange atmosphere in the lead-up to kick-off.

But all that changed once the game started with Fleet all over Wrexham from the start and their supporters responding in kind.

The Plough End was rocking long before Shaun Pearson put through his own goal from a teasing Myles Weston cross in the 10th minute after the winger had linked well with Michael Cheek.

Fleet were first to every loose ball, with Cheek and Gozie Ugwu knocking the Wrexham centre-halves around and setting the tone for those behind them.

Cheek's flicked header sent Corey Whitely racing clear but his tame shot was straight at goalkeeper Rob Lainton, who saved easily.

Wrexham's attacks lacked conviction, Mark Carrington lashing a shot miles wide from distance and Nathan Ashmore getting comfortably behind a floated free-kick from Kemy Agustien.

Gozie Ugwu gets the better of his man in the box Picture: Andy Jones
Gozie Ugwu gets the better of his man in the box Picture: Andy Jones

Ugwu showed great strength to win a bouncing ball and Weston fed Whitely, whose shot was charged down.

Lawrie Wilson's deep cross almost fell for Cheek and Weston saw his cross scrambled clear after going past Kevin Roberts, before a Whitely free-kick skimmed the wall and flashed behind for a corner.

Ebbsfleet were fired up and six minutes before half-time, they were two up when Jack Payne's corner was headed in at the near post by Cheek.

Things got even better on the stroke of 45 minutes as Cheek rammed home Ugwu's low cross, with Weston denied a fourth goal by Lainton in stoppage-time.

Wrexham boss Bryan Hughes responded by making a triple substitution at the break and one of the players he sent on, Stuart Beavon, gave the visitors hope by converting Paul Rutherford's low cross four minutes into the second half.

That goal changed the mood around the ground, with the Red Dragons suddenly believing there could be something in the game for them after all.

Fleet responded though, Dean Rance volleying over and Ugwu nodding a Chris Bush free-kick down for Jack King, although the flag was up for offside.

Jason Oswell flashed a low ball through Ebbsfleet's six-yard box and Hill sent on Andy Drury to shore up the midfield for the last half-an-hour.

Full-back James Jennings must have thought he'd scored when he got his head to a right-wing cross but Ashmore pulled off a stunning save to keep the ball out.

Wrexham were throwing everything at Fleet now and Payne cleared an effort off the line before Oswell's header from a corner flashed across the face of goal and narrowly wide.

Dean Rance wins a header in midfield Picture: Andy Jones
Dean Rance wins a header in midfield Picture: Andy Jones

A poor clearance from Ashmore put his backline in trouble briefly but Weston recovered with a brilliant block to stop Jennings picking out a team-mate in the middle.

Things got nervy when Pearson made it 3-2, eight minutes from time, stabbing the ball home in a goalmouth scramble.

Ashmore spilled a routine shot and for a moment it looked like Wrexham were in for the equaliser but the keeper spread himself well to keep out the follow-up.

So you can imagine the roar of relief that exploded all around the ground when substitute Bagasan Graham burst into the box down the left and squared for Drury, whose unselfish pass was coolly steered under Lainton by the waiting Ugwu.

Rutherford blazed a shot wide, deep into stoppage-time, but the game was won by then and Fleet's celebrations at full-time told their own story.

Ebbsfleet: Ashmore, Wilson, Magri, King, Bush, Whitely (Drury 66mins), Rance (Adams 88mins), Payne, Weston, Cheek (Graham 77mins), Ugwu. Subs not used: Kedwell, Moncur.

Wrexham: Lainton, Roberts, Jennings, Pearson, Carrington, Rutherford, McGlashan (Oswell 46mins), Spyrou (Beavon 46mins), Wright, Agustien (Young 46mins), Lawlor. Subs not used: Dibble, Holroyd.

Attendance: 1,523.

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