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Match Report

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Match report by Ian Pluck

After 4 convincing wins in the FA Cup, scoring 19 goals in the process, the Ducks faced a very different challenge today with the visit of National League South opponents Ebbsfleet United. This was the first fixture between the teams since 2000, since when it is fair to say that the fortunes of both clubs have gone in different directions. Our visitors were then known as Gravesend & Northfleet, and have risen from the Ryman Premier Division to the Conference National and on the verge of promotion to the Football League, losing in the play semi final to Tranmere in 2018, before getting relegated controversially on points per game in the Covid disrupted season of 2020. Their current team is made up of full-time professionals, many of whom have recent Football League experience.

Given the gulf in experience between the clubs, Ben Williams chose to set the team up to contain the opposition, sacrificing some attacking intent to stay competitive in the game. Just the one change to the team after Tuesday’s win against Colney Heath, saw a fit again Ezra Anthonio-Forde replace Ben Seaton, but playing in a deeper than usual role to help the defensive effort.

On another foul day for football, with torrential rain again spoiling the day, as expected the visitors quickly established themselves in the game, with left winger Greg Cundle causing problems for Harry Jones.

Despite their dominance, the Ducks defence held firm with Archie Davis having little to do in the first 15 minutes. Indeed, it was the Ducks who had the first chance of note, with Ollie Hogg spraying the ball wide to Max Hercules, who cut inside and fired a shot goalwards, but his effort was too high to bother Chris Haigh in goal

As expected, Davis was to be by far the busier keeper; on 18 minutes Ben Chapman managed the first shot on target, testing the home keeper from 20 yards, but he was able to safely claim the ball. Chapman was involved immediately afterwards, whipping in a great cross from the right towards the head of Elliott Romain, but Jack Wood got in a fine challenge to force Romain’s header off target.

On 25 minutes a ball wide saw Cundle cut across Jones, but his powerful drive stayed just wide of Davis’ left-hand post. It was Cundle again that created the next chance, tricking both Jones and Jamie Jellis back in support, before firing in a low shot that Davis did extremely well to palm the ball around the far post.

Two minutes later and an attack from the right flank saw Tobi Adebayo-Rowling beat Jake Bewley and fired a left foot shot that Davis was again equal to.

The Ducks did have the ball in the net in the 38th minute, Anthonio-Forde on the end of a move that involved both Hogg and Hercules, to round Haigh and despatch the ball from 40 yards, but the flag had long since been raised for offside, so the ‘goal’ was chalked off.

Four minutes before half time a quick throw in from Romain found strike partner Rakish Bingham 40 yards from goal; he looked up and unleashed a powerful shot, which the Ducks faithful were grateful to see rise over the crossbar.

Half-time: Aylesbury 0-0 Ebbsfleet

The second half started with Hercules playing a quick throw in to Anthonio-Forde, who got to the ball ahead of two defenders and chipped over the head of Haigh as he advanced from his goal; however Alex Finney was back quickly to clear the danger as the striker chased his own ball.

The visitors had made two substitutions at the start of the second half, it was one of these who made an almost instant impact. Jones tried to dribble the ball clear from his own penalty area, but was challenged by Cundle, with the ball falling to debutant St Lucia international Kieran Monlouis, who cut inside and curled a wonder strike past Davis and into the far corner to open the scoring. 1-0 Ebbsfleet

Two minutes after the goal and it was almost 2 - 0. Adebayo-Rowling worked well down the right and fired a low cross which struck the near post and away to safety.

The Ducks were awarded a free kick on 57 minutes; Bewley took it quickly, firing a fine diagonal ball to Ty Deacon on the right, who controlled the ball well and cut inside his defender before firing a shot at Haigh from 20 yards that he saved well.

Despite their best efforts to get back into the game, the Ducks found chances few and far between, with the visiting defence repelling any efforts that created. On 78 minutes a long ball found Monlouis, who fed the ball inside to Cundle who saw his shot saved by Davis. Cundle was involved again straight afterwards, beating Jones on the outside and crossing to Bingham, who beat Davis to the ball, but Wood was back in the right place to clear the effort off the line.

As the game entered the final moments, the Ducks came closest to opening their account and securing an equaliser. A Hercules free kick wasn’t cleared by the visitors and was played back to Jamie Rudd on the left; he fired a ball across the 6-yard box which no one was able to get a touch to, but was cleared to Ben Seaton on the edge of the penalty area, who saw his shot blocked.

That was to be the end of the goalscoring opportunities, as the game ended in a narrow win for the visitors. The Ducks should be proud of their efforts on the day, keeping the visitors at bay and only beaten by a wonder strike for the only goal of the game. The effort and endeavour was clear for all to see, but it was a fair result, with the stronger side progressing to the next round; we wish them well in their season ahead.

Next up for the Ducks, the knockout matches continue, with a Southern League Cup match on Wednesday night against FC Romania, followed by the Second Qualifying Round match in the FA Trophy against Chipstead FC next Saturday, both matches at the Meadow. Please get along to the ground if you can to show your support for the team.