St Albans City slip out of play-off places after dull home defeat to Ebbsfleet United

Zane Banton had St Albans City's closest chance against Ebbsfleet United.

Zane Banton had St Albans City's closest chance against Ebbsfleet United. - Credit: GAVIN ELLIS/TGS PHOTO

St Albans City's hopes of making the National League South play-offs are not over - but they are beginning to slip out of reach after a home defeat to Ebbsfleet United.

Substitute Dominic Poleon got the only goal in the 1-0 win with a scruffy goal nine minutes after coming on.

It was a winner in keeping with an awful spectacle, with neither team really deserving of the three points, but it stretches the poor home form of Saints, this is now six league defeats in the last 11.

The hosts are now outside of the play-off places after a late goal by Dulwich Hamlet lifted them up above them but nobody is making that seventh place their own at the minute.

That, if nothing else, should give Saints' fans hope at the very least but there will need to be a huge upturn in performances in the last month of  the campaign.

Ian Allinson went with just the one change from the side who had lost 2-1 at basement club Billericay Town on Tuesday.

In came Huw Dawson for Dave Diedhiou as Saints went to a back four.

How you rated the first-half probably depends on the colour of your scarf and what you expect from your football.

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If you came for entertainment, you would have probably considered leaving. This wouldn't have looked out of place as a pre-season friendly or as one of those late-season matches between sides who had nothing to play for.

Thing is, these too are still firmly in the play-off race but they offered nothing, almost as if the fear of conceding was enough of a deterrent to risk an attacking foray.

One John Goddard corner that hung up in the wind, and left Louie Moulden in the Fleet goal flapping at it, and a blocked effort from Zane Banton was about as good as it got for Saints while at the other end, Michael Johnson had to make one save at the feet of Rakish Bingham while there were a couple of efforts off target, Shaq Coulthirst and Ben Chapman with those.

Saints though would have been happy. Certainly there wasn't many times, if any, when Allinson and his coaching staff felt the need to get animated, other than words between the City boss and referee as the teams came off at the break.

The second period did at least begin with a few sights of goal.

Kyran Wiltshire had a shot blocked, Mitchell Weiss put another wide before Zane Banton's effort was deflected behind.

It still wasn't good but it gave you hope that there could be a positive outcome for the hosts.

Unfortunately, the substitution changed the momentum and after Christian N'Guessan had curled one wide of the target, Poleon and Bender went in for a loose ball, with the Ebbsfleet man's leg getting there first and sweeping it under Johnson and bobbling into the net.

City responded with a triple substitution with 10 minutes to go, bringing on David Noble, Liam Sole and Avan Jones, and it did generate a momentary spark.

But it was a fleeting moment, and one late shot ballooned over the top ended the contest.

St Albans City: Johnson, Bender, Wiltshire, Clark (Jones 80), Jeffers, Banton (Sole 80), Dawson (Noble 80), Weiss, Mukena, Goddard, Green.

Subs (not used): Diedhiou, Lankshear.

Booked: Wiltshire 32, Green 45, Clark 72

Ebbsfleet United: Moulden, J.Martin, Jombarti, N'Guessan, Bingham (L.Martin 81), Wood (Cundle 75), Romain, Solly, Paxman, Chapman, Coulthirst (Poleon 62).

Subs (not used): Haigh, Kahraman.

Goal: Poleon 71

Booked: J.Martin 6

HT: St Albans City 0 Ebbsfleet United 0

Referee: Jonathan Maskrey

Attendance: 1,470