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Maidstone United 0 Ebbsfleet United 2 match report

Ebbsfleet are now just three points outside the National League play-offs after a derby win at Maidstone.

Gozie Ugwu and Michael Cheek scored at the Gallagher Stadium, where a lively atmosphere threatened to boil over at times.

Defeat leaves the Stones 14 points from safety with only seven games left while Fleet know victory away to Halifax on Tuesday night will lift them into the top seven.

Michael Cheek celebrates his goal in front of the Ebbsfleet supporters Picture: Sean Aidan
Michael Cheek celebrates his goal in front of the Ebbsfleet supporters Picture: Sean Aidan

Jake Cassidy returned up front for Maidstone on Saturday, having missed almost a month with a thigh injury, while Dion-Curtis Henry got the nod in goal as John Still made two changes to the side which lost 1-0 at Wrexham a week earlier.

Corey Whitely and Myles Weston were picked to play wide for Fleet, with Ebou Adams away on international duty and Bagasan Graham dropping to the bench.

With more than 600 Ebbsfleet fans packing the away section to capacity, the visitors were first to threaten when Ugwu's shot flashed across the face of goal and behind with the help of a deflection.

Maidstone then failed to clear a Chris Bush free-kick from wide on the right and when Weston whipped in a superb ball from the opposite flank, Uwgu's glancing header dropped just wide.

Josh Taylor was gifted a shooting opportunity when Ebbsfleet switched off at a corner and Nathan Ashmore beat out his powerful effort but there was little flow to the first quarter.

However, that all changed on 21 minutes when Fleet took the lead courtesy of a brilliant counter-attacking goal. Bush blocked a Justin Amaluzor strike just outside the box and the ball was cleared up to Michael Cheek on halfway. Cheek did superbly to turn away from two Stones players and spread play right to Whitely, whose inch-perfect cross was tapped home by the onrushing Ugwu in the six-yard box.

Justin Amaluzor tries to get away from Myles Weston Picture: Sean Aidan
Justin Amaluzor tries to get away from Myles Weston Picture: Sean Aidan

Fleet enjoyed a measure of control after that and Sam Magri headed over from Jack Payne's corner while a Bush free-kick was just too strong for Jack King at the back post.

Blair Turgott forced a smart save from Ashmore when he found space from a corner but often the final ball was lacking for Maidstone, who surrendered possession much too easily.

Dean Rance snapped into a crunching tackle at the end of the first half and Ugwu, on the turn, threaded a pass through for Whitely although he couldn't quite bring it under control.

Ashmore seemed to be caught out by an Amaluzor shot after the restart, the ball bouncing in front of the goalkeeper and bouncing off his chest although Ebbsfleet were able to clear the danger.

But it was a decent start to the second half by Maidstone, who won a few set-pieces and pinned the visitors back into their own half for a while.

It amounted to very little, though, and Dan Wishart's wayward strike from a long way out was watched all the way by an untroubled Ashmore.

Will De Havilland challenges Jack King and Chris Bush Picture: Sean Aidan
Will De Havilland challenges Jack King and Chris Bush Picture: Sean Aidan

A crackling atmosphere threatened to turn nasty in the Genco Stand as missiles were thrown by both sets of supporters with the stewards struggling to keep on top of things.

Maidstone had a couple of half-chances in the Fleet box but blue shirts blocked three efforts in quick succession while Amaluzor forced a corner after getting in behind down the right.

At the other end, Whitely's whipped cross from the right only needed a touch as it bounced in the six-yard box but no-one in blue could oblige.

Stones substitute Jake Embery almost forced an own goal when Ashmore scrambled his cross-shot from the right behind for a corner.

The home side were finishing strong, winning a series of set-pieces and Garry Hill made a change five minutes from time, sending on Danny Kedwell for his 200th appearance in a Fleet shirt.

Will De Havilland thought he was in late on but Ashmore was out quickly to save well and the flag was up for offside anyway.

And it was game over when Cheek headed home in stoppage-time after Kedwell had flicked on another long throw from Bush.

Maidstone: Henry, S Donnellan, De Havilland, Davies, Wishart, Walton, Powell, Taylor (Embery 70mins), Amaluzor (Phillips 79mins), Turgott, Cassidy. Subs not used: Strizovic, Swaine, L Donnellan.

Ebbsfleet: Ashmore, Wilson, Magri, King, Bush, Whitely (Graham 90mins), Rance, Payne, Weston, Cheek, Ugwu (Kedwell 85mins). Subs not used: Miles, Moncur, Omar.

Attendance: 3,002 (622 away).

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