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Oxford City 1 Ebbsfleet United 0 match report: Fleet back into National League relegation zone

Ebbsfleet returned to the National League drop zone despite dominating the second half at Oxford City on Saturday.

The Fleet were made to pay for a lacklustre first half and their mood was not helped by seemingly every other result going against them as most of the league’s struggling sides picked up points.

Ebbsfleet’s Omari Sterling-James runs at the Oxford City defence on Saturday. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC
Ebbsfleet’s Omari Sterling-James runs at the Oxford City defence on Saturday. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC

Ebbsfleet made one change from the side that won at Maidenhead on Tuesday night with Luke O’Neill replacing Declan Skura.

It was a largely uneventful first half with an early snapshot from Ebbsfleet striker Dominic Poleon, which warmed the palms of Oxford keeper Marcin Brzozowski, a rare piece of angle.

Omari Sterling-James’ speculative left-foot shot looped just wide of the upright but that was as good as it got in an attacking sense for the visitors in the first 45 minutes.

There were a couple of notable breaks that saw dangerous crosses cleared but neither defence was really stretched.

The opening goal arrived on 36 minutes. On-loan Huddersfield defender Mustapha Olagunju appeared to have cleared the danger with an excellent defensive header.

But the resulting corner was never fully cleared and when Nya Kirby’s speculative cross-shot went goalwards, Andre Burley was left at the far post to slot a neat finish beyond keeper Mark Cousins.

Clearly not impressed with the pace of the first half, Fleet manager Dennis Kutrieb made a double half-time change with Toby Edser and Darren McQueen coming on.

Craig Tanner’s 20-yard shot went over and then McQueen shot horribly over after Rakish Bingham won the ball in the air.

WIth an hour gone, the Fleet introduced midweek match-winner Dominic Samuel who immediately teed up Edser but his left-foot shot went over the stand behind the goal.

Then Samuel was denied an equaliser on 69 minutes as his far-post header from a deep Edser corner was cleared off the line with the visitors unable to turn the loose ball home.

It looked like it wasn’t going to be Ebbsfleet’s day when Samuel spurned two chances in a minute. His first shot was brilliantly blocked by the home defence and then he slotted inches wide of the upright from the edge of the box.

Kutrieb was shown a yellow card - along with director of football Damian Irvine - with five minutes left after they protested at a foul awarded against Mustapha Olagunju, who had threatened to run through the home defence.

Ebbsfleet then hit the woodwork in the 87th minute when Poleon was upended on the edge of the box, interestingly with no caution handed out for the foul as he looked to line up a shot at goal. O’Neill stepped up but his 20-yard right-foot free-kick came crashing back off the underside of the crossbar.

Ebbsfleet’s frustration threatened to boil over in stoppage time as Bingham, Poleon and Ben Chapman were all cautioned by referee Aaron Jackson,

Oxford City: Brzozowski, Burley, Kirby (Fisher 89mins), Roddy, Fleet, Roberts, Parker, Smith (Ashby 46mins), Williams-Bushell., Carroll, Humphrey-Ewers (Potter 81mins). Subs not used: Moore, Croker.

Ebbsfleet: Cousins, O’Neill, Olagunju, Kenlock, Sterling-James (McQueen 46mins), Wright (Edser 46mins), Cisse, Tanner (Samuel 60mins), Chapman, Bingham, Poleon. Subs not used: Domi, Clifford.

Referee: Aaron Jackson.

Attendance: 1,157 (171 away).

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