Farcical red card caps off torrid Ebbsfleet visit

Referee Constantine Hatzadakis shows the red card to David Keenleyside following his second booking

Referee Constantine Hatzadakis shows the red card to David Keenleyside following his second booking - Credit: Archant

A farcical red card for substitute David Keenleyside just about summed up St Albans City’s afternoon Ebbsfleet as they were beaten 4-1 at the PHB Stadium.

The referee failed to see Keenleyside replace Charlie Gorman, despite his assistant allowing him to enter the field of play, and brandished a yellow card. And his second booking followed two minute later for a soft foul, ending his night and starting an onslaught from the hosts.

While City struggled to contain Fleet, particularly Charlie Sheringham, with 11 men it was an impossibility with 10 and the hosts laid siege to Joe Welch’s goal, scoring two more goals.

After back-to-back losses against Eastbourne Borough and Sutton United, St Albans gave Charlie Gorman, on a one-month loan from Welling, his debut and stuck with the centre-back pairing of Ben Martin and Tom Ward after Darren Locke failed a fitness test. New signing Geoff Mitchell started on the bench.

The Saints had the first chance of the game after Sean Shields won a soft free-kick near the left touchline in the fifth minute. James Comley swung the ball towards the back post for Steve Wales but he couldn’t keep his header down.

At the other end, Daryl McMahon fired well wide of Joe Welch’s right post from the edge of the box.

City were the architects of their own downfall for the opening goal in the 13th minute. Ben Martin was caught on the ball and gave away a free-kick from which Fleet won a corner. Then, Charlie Sheringham got a run on his man and powered his header past Welch.

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Ebbsfleet were finding success with corners and, after Welch caught the second confidently, Sheringham was allowed a free run but he couldn’t make City pay. The next two corners were put into dangerous areas but the visitors scrambled the ball away.

Sheringham was proving to be a thorn in City’s side, and he doubled Ebbsfleet’s lead in the 32nd minute. McMahon’s free-kick was knocked down by Alex Osborn, who looked to come over the top of Chappell, to Sheringham who lashed his second past Welch.

Saints best chance of the half came five minutes before the break. Steve Wales broke the line for the first time and cut the ball back to Shields but his shot was tame and Preston Edwards saved easily.

Sheringham almost completed a first-half hat-trick in the 44th minute but Welch made a fantastic reaction, point blank save and then Comley cleared off the line.

City’s shot-stopper then had to be alert to save low to his left from Osborn before pushing a Anthony Cook cross-cum-shot over the bar to ensure St Albans were only two behind at the break.

New signing Geoff Mitchell was introduced to the game at half-time in place of Danny Green to add another attacking option for St Albans.

The move paid off, although not as City had envisaged. Shields whipped in a corner for Frendo which he headed against the bar. The rebound fell to Wales and he calmly headed past Edwards.

Wales had another sight of goal minutes later as Frendo cushioned John Kyriacou’s ball into his path but he couldn’t wrap his foot around the ball.

At the other end, Billy Bricknell turned two men and tried to lob Welch but the ball cleared the bar. Sheringham then twice went close but Welch was equal.

Ebbsfleet should have restored their two-goal cushion on the hour mark when Sheringham went through one-on-one with Welch but he toe-poked his shot the wrong side of the post. Gorman was injured in the build-up and was subsequently substituted for David Keenleyside.

The referee failed to see the change despite the assistant allowing it and booked Keenleyside. He had been on the pitch for just two minutes when the referee showed him a second yellow for a soft foul.

Fleet took advantage of City’s frustration to score their third goal, Bricknell tucking the ball neatly past Welch. The hosts then laid siege to City’s goal and only good fortune kept the ball out of the net.

But the net was living a charmed life and it wasn’t long before Bricknell had his second and Fleet’s fourth. A deep free-kick was headed back to the front man who had time to pick his spot and thunder the ball into the net.

Sheringham looked to have completed a deserved hat-trick in the 85th minute but his goal was ruled out for offside. It would have capped off a dominant display from Fleet who, for the second game running, posed serious questions that City’s back four couldn’t answer. They will be hoping to put it right against Bromley on Monday night. Kick-off 7.45pm at Clarence Park.

St Albans starting line-up: Welch, Kyriacou, Chappell, Green, Martin, Ward, Gorman, Comley, Frendo, Shields, Wales. Subs: Mitchell, Clarke, Pires, Keenleyside, Bola.

Ebbsfleet starting line-up: Edwards, Huke, Howe, McMahon, Acheampong, Clark, Osborn, Rance, Sheringham, Bricknell, Cook. Subs: Palmer, Hall, Johnson, Fraser, Godden.

Attendance: 1,034