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Ebbsfleet United 2 Notts County 3: FA Cup reaction from Fleet manager Kevin Watson

Manager Kevin Watson admitted he felt ‘robbed’ after Ebbsfleet’s FA Cup heartache on Saturday.

Fleet lost 3-2 to fellow National League side Notts County at Stonebridge Road, with the winner coming in stoppage time.

Alex Reid bursts forward for Ebbsfleet against Notts County. Picture: Matthew Walker FM21266250
Alex Reid bursts forward for Ebbsfleet against Notts County. Picture: Matthew Walker FM21266250

“I feel robbed,” he stated. “It’s as animated as I’ve been with officials for a long, long time.

“If my language was a bit choice at times then I apologise to people sitting behind the dugout, it’s how the game gets you and some of the decisions were baffling to say the least.

“I’m incredibly disappointed. Once they went 2-1 up it was one-way traffic, we could have been a bit more ruthless in front of goal.

“We deservedly got back in it with the penalty and another goal for Gozie but then I’m gutted that we’ve conceded in the 93rd minute.

“I’ve said to the lads that although we’re out of the cup, it doesn’t feel like a defeat because we haven’t been defeated in the right way.

“If teams have to work for their goals and score goals like Josh Payne did for us then you take that and say well played. But not the way their goals have come.

“However, I wish Neal Ardley the best in the next round, I hope they get a good draw and go as far as they can.”

Fleet boss Kevin Watson. Picture: Matthew Walker FM21266251
Fleet boss Kevin Watson. Picture: Matthew Walker FM21266251

Watson felt Ebbsfleet defender Marvel Ekpiteta was fouled off the ball at the corner for Notts County’s first goal why he is still mystified how referee Carl Brook gave a free-kick to the visitors with time running out.

The foul for the first goal seemed a simple decision for Brook to give - with the offending County player the only man in the penalty area facing the wrong way long before the ball was delivered into the box.

“I felt two of their goals were contentious to say the least,” said Watson.

“The first goal, the lads were saying the ball was over the line but they worked on a block. It wasn’t just a block, it was a rugby tackle on Marv and stopped him following his man.

“He was facing the other way, not looking at the ball and it wouldn’t have looked out of place in the rugby World Cup final.

“Then the second one I don’t think anyone in the ground knows why he has blown for a free-kick in the centre of the pitch. From the free-kick they get a corner, and from the corner comes a goal.”

Fleet striker Gozie Ugwu is fouled against Notts County. Picture: Matthew Walker FM21266248
Fleet striker Gozie Ugwu is fouled against Notts County. Picture: Matthew Walker FM21266248

While Fleet’s frustrations lay with the officials at the full-time whistle, they were undone from set-pieces once again.

“It is a bug bear of mine,” added Watson. “We’ll continue to work on them until we get better.

“We’re always going to score goals but at the minute I just feel that too many are coming from set pieces.

“I don’t think half the set pieces need to be given away, either, that’s the other thing.

“If we keep clean sheets, we ultimately will score goals. But at the minute it’s a little bit too easy when balls come into our box.”

Watson felt for midfielder Josh Payne, whose wonder goal from nearly 40 yards will not be remembered in years to come as fondly as it should be.

“It was a wonderful strike,” noted the Fleet boss. “When he picked the ball up, I must have been the only one who said ‘have a shot’ because I know the technique he’s got and how he strikes a ball.

“It was just pure, wasn’t it. That should have been the goal that won the game for us but it wasn’t to be.

“We played against a team in good form that is up and around the play-offs and we’ve given them a right game.”

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