Fleet too strong for City
Phipp goal extends City run to one win in 20 games
St Albans City 1 (Inih Effiong 34)
Ebbsfleet United 2 (Calum Willock 18, Tom Phipp 43)
A HEADED goal from Ebbsfleet United’s Tom Phipp two minutes before half-time consigned St Albans City to a third straight defeat in Blue Square South and extended a worrying run of one win in 20 games.
Ebbsfleet’s mix of talented youngsters and experienced campaigners were probably the best attacking unit City have come up against this season but the visiting defence wasn’t tested enough to determine whether Liam Daish’s side have what it takes to be serious title contenders. A run of 12 games undefeated does however suggest that Fleet will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
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Both sides exchanged efforts early on with on-loan Leyton Orient man Harry Beautyman firing wide from 25 yards for City and Calum Willock seeing his glancing header from Derek Duncan’s centre well held by Paul Bastock.
A great ball low into the box by Beautyman somehow evaded everyone while at the other end a slip by Adam Everitt allowed Phipp to advance into the box but his charge was halted by a well-timed slide tackle from Ryan Frater.
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With 18 minutes gone the visitors took the lead with a classic route one goal. Goalkeeper Preston Edwards fired the ball long down to the Hatfield Road end where Willock controlled the ball first on his chest, then on his thigh, before turning and firing a shot from the edge of the box that took a slight nick off a defender and looped over the stranded Bastock.
A horrendous pass by James Fisher straight from the restart gifted Fleet possession and ended with Everitt fouling Ricky Shakes on the edge of the City penalty area. Thankfully for Steve Castle’s side Ashley Carew’s free kick sailed harmlessly over the bar.
A short corner between Carew and Duncan worked an angle for Carew to get in a shot but the midfielder’s effort fizzed past the far post.
Despite Fleet seemingly in control of the match a moment of quality from Sean Shields nearly provided City with an equaliser. The youngster picked the ball up on the left flank, before cutting inside and jinking past his man. His low right foot shot beat goalkeeper Edwards but bounced off the near post and ran kindly to a Fleet defender who booted the ball to safety.
Fleet continued to push for a second with Shakes forcing a good save from Bastock. The City defence stood off right-back Craig Stone which allowed him to pick out Shakes who made the most of the space afforded to him to curl the ball around a defender only to see Bastock push the ball away from goal.
Shakes really should have increased Fleet’s lead just moments later but the former Brentford man was guilty of the miss of the season.
Michael West sprung the offside trap down the right wing and played a great ball across the face of the goal to Shakes at the far post who mistimed his effort and saw it role the wrong side of the open goal.
It was a costly miss for Fleet as City drew level three minutes later. A ball forward by Dave Deeney was repelled by the Ebbsfleet defence but only as far as Rob Magwood who lofted the ball back towards the visitors’ goal. Jean-Michel Sigere beat his man to flick the ball into the path of Inih Effiong who showed great composure to lift the ball over Paul Lorraine and bend the ball past Edwards. The goalkeeper got two hands to the ball but despite that and the best efforts of Stone to hack the ball off the line the ball nestled in the corner of the net to give City a goal against the run of play.
Almost immediately Fleet went on the attack and had a decent penalty shout turned down when Frater and Willock challenged for the ball in the air.
Fleet did manage to grab a second and decisive goal just two minutes before the interval courtesy of a generous free kick award from referee Tim Wood.
The referee adjudged Magwood to have fouled West out on the right touchline despite the City man not making contact with his opposite number but the home side were guilty of switching off from the set play as West picked out Phipp at the far post who headed home despite Bastock getting a hand to the ball.
The second half was a rather dull affair in contrast to the opening 45 minutes. Ebbsfleet controlled possession for vast swathes of the second period but despite this they failed to test Bastock on a regular occurrence.
The visitors were after a penalty again just before the hour mark when they claimed Willock’s header hit a hand but again referee Wood was unmoved.
Fleet probably should have had a third when Lorraine rose highest to head West’s corner into Willock’s path but the former Crawley Town frontman couldn’t divert the ball into the net.
Willock was a thorn in City’s side all afternoon with the forward enjoying a good tussle with Frater throughout the contest. A long hanging cross from Stone found Willock at the far post but the St Kitts & Nevis international couldn’t get any power on his header and the ball sailed wide of the mark.
City’s best effort of the second period didn’t come until the 81st minute when Sigere outmuscled his marker and spun and shot only for the effort to flash across the face of goal and wide.
The visitors continued to press for a third with Bastock denying substitute Gareth Williams from close range and West shooting over the bar from Phipp’s pass but in the end it mattered little as referee Wood bought an end to proceedings.
City: Bastock; Deeney, Frater, Everitt, Smith; Beautyman (Kweme 75), Magwood (A Martin 84), Fisher, Shields (R Martin 67); Sigere, Effiong.
Subs not used: Dedman, Barker.
Ebbsfleet United: Edwards; Stone, Lorraine, Easton, Duncan; West, Marwa, Carew (Howe 61), Phipp (Henry 89); Willock, Shakes (Williams 77).
Subs not used: Pooley, Hagan.
Referee: Tim Wood (Quedgeley).