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Havant & Waterlooville 3 Ebbsfleet United 3 match report

By Steve Tervet

Ebbsfleet fought back from three goals down in a Good Friday classic at Havant.

The home side, already relegated from the National League, were 3-0 up at half-time and cruising.

But the Fleet scored three goals in nine minutes after the break and have closed the gap on Eastleigh and Harrogate in the race for the play-offs.

Sam Magri scored Ebbsfleet's equaliser at Havant Picture: Andy Jones
Sam Magri scored Ebbsfleet's equaliser at Havant Picture: Andy Jones

Ebbsfleet host Dover on Monday now three points behind Eastleigh and four behind Harrogate.

Injuries ruled out Jack King and Gozie Ugwu, so Dave Winfield and Danny Kedwell came into the Fleet side while Ebou Adams and Andy Drury were preferred to Jack Payne and Corey Whitely in midfield.

There was a spate of early half-chances for the visitors, with Michael Cheek scuffing his effort from Myles Weston's low cross and Dean Rance drilling a low shot wide from outside the box when referee Sam Allison played advantage after a foul on Adams.

Kedwell's glancing header from a long Nathan Ashmore kick dropped wide and Weston had a cross/shot blocked after Drury had got his head up and spread play wide.

Havant posed an occasional threat on the counter-attack but Fleet kept probing and Winfield sent a firm header from Chris Bush's free-kick straight at Bilboe, who then stood up well to deny Weston the opener.

So it was somewhat against the run of play that Havant took the lead midway through the first half. Ebbsfleet didn't deal with a corner from the right and when Ryan Woodford's header came back off the post, Alfie Rutherford reacted quickest to fire the loose ball home.

The visitors were rocking for a few minutes and former Fleet midfielder Theo Lewis fired a half-volley over from 20 yards.

But how Ebbsfleet didn't draw level in the 27th minute, only Cheek will know. The striker was presented with an open goal after Lawrie Wilson latched onto Drury's through-ball and rounded Bilboe, only to hit the bar with a skewed shot from inside the six-yard box.

Havant were now playing with confidence and Rutherford curled a shot wide from the corner of the box before making it 2-0 a minute before half-time.

One pass from Wes Fogden split the Fleet defence and Rutherford kept his cool to roll the ball low across Ashmore as the goalkeeper raced out.

Things got even worse for the visitors in stoppage-time at the end of the half, Danny McNamara latching onto a diagonal ball and tucking a neat finish inside the near post.

Payne replaced Adams at the break and within two minutes of the restart, Kedwell had pulled a goal back from Cheek's pass.

Suddenly the 296 away fans found their voices and Rance powered a shot over as Fleet pressed forward in search of a second goal.

It duly arrived, four minutes later, when Kedwell returned the favour by heading a high ball into the path of Cheek, who took a touch and slid the ball low into the net.

The mood inside Westleigh Park had changed completely and the away end erupted when Sam Magri slammed home the equaliser from close range after Kedwell's shot had skimmed behind for a corner.

The sight of forward Corey Whitely replacing full-back Wilson with an hour gone showed Fleet were going for the jugular as Havant struggled to get out of their own half.

Havant, in control at the break, now looked a bag of nerves as Ebbsfleet piled men forward. Weston lashed a shot over and the visitors forced a series of set-pieces with their supporters trying to suck the ball in.

The home side relieved the pressure momentarily with a counter-attack which finished with McNamara driving a shot over the bar.

But the Ebbsfleet pressure continued, Kedwell arrowing a header inches wide from Weston's cross and then nodding over from a Bush long throw.

Whitely curled a free-kick over the bar, five minutes from time and substitute Bagasan Graham turned his man on the edge of the box before firing into the side netting with plenty thinking he'd scored.

A low shot from Weston was straight at Bilboe as Fleet threw everything at their hosts although McNamara was inches away from winning it for the Hawks at the death.

Havant: Bilboe, Strugnell, Williams, Woodford, Fogden, Lewis, Carter, McNamara, Cordner, Paul (Quigley 60mins). Subs not used: Banjo, Huggins, Molyneaux, Jalloh.

Ebbsfleet: Ashmore, Wilson (Whitely 63mins), Magri, Winfield, Bush, Adams (Payne 46mins), Rance, Drury, Weston, Kedwell, Cheek (Graham 76mins). Subs not used: Miles, Moncur.

Attendance: 1,097 (296 away).

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