A strangely subdued match saw much of the crowd lacking in enthusiasm, where usually Ebbsfleet fans are very vocal. Because of Kettering’s dire financial position our fans felt they should not mock them, as we could be in their fans shoes next year.
Ebbsfleet decided to put midfielder Rambir Marwa on the bench after his two-game suspension and he was joined by the returning Callum Willock, who has been recovering from a nasty eye injury. Tom Phipp was also left on the bench.
Ebbsfleet started well, and while the forwards looked indecisive our winger Ricky Shakes was playing out of his skin, not only being our creative spark but tracking back to help Craig Stone cope with Kettering’s decent attacker Mills.
Our goal came on 20 minutes, a poor header by the Kettering centre-half allowed Shakes to nip in to score the only goal of the game. It was a class finish as he was off balance and the keeper had narrowed the angle.
Gozie Ugwu, who had showed some tremendous skills in the half, miscued a lob under pressure from the defender. Then, Liam Enver-Marum went absolutely clear of the defence but rather than place the shot, he tried a lob which went straight into the keepers arms. The closest Kettering came was when an ambitious toe-punt flew a yard or so over Lance Cronin’s crossbar.
The second half did not live up to the first, Kettering saw a lot more of the ball but could not create anything. Early in the second half Ugwu should have settled the contest, he did well to get the ball ahead of the keeper, cut outside the defender but somehow scooped it over from six yards. I was right behind the goal and it was a horrid miss.
Kettering spent alot of time in our half during the second period but created very little, only a few scrambles in our penalty area that briefly troubled us. Enver-Marum got into some good positions to cross but wasted the opportunities. Phipp and Marwa came on, the former causing the visitors a few problems. First a drive flew agonisingly wide of Laurie Walker’s goal, then he made an excellent run into the six yard box as the ball was slipped into him but a superb covering tackle stopped him from getting his shot on target.
There was relief when the final whistle blew as these three points could secure safety. We only need two wins from our last 8 games at the very most to be mathmatically safe from the drop.
The man of the match award was given to midfielder Neil Barrett but I would have given it to our goalkeeper Lance Cronin. He did not put a single foot wrong, did not have to make any real difficult saves but he made a few catches and advanced from his goal at the right moments. Also, he had to deal with some really tricky backpasses and he took command of his area admirably. The four defenders in front of him had good games. As usual captain Paul Lorraine set a great example and was dominant in the air, our full-backs kept the wingers quiet for a lot of the game and Ross Smith looks to have filled the gap left by the injured Yado Mambo, who had to return to Charlton last month to get treatment for a hamstring problem. Next up for The Fleet is a home game on Tuesday against Alfreton.