Ebbsfleet United 1-2 Basingstoke Town - That's a bitter pill to swallow, admits Steve Brown

Saturday 11th October 2014

The FA Cup Third Qualifying Round
Saturday 11th October 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Stonebridge Road

EBBSFLEET UNITED manager Steve Brown says football is a wicked game after his side were dumped out of The FA Cup by clinical Basingstoke Town.

The Dragons arrived at Stonebridge Road sitting at the top of the Vanarama Conference South table with 24 points from 11 games, three places and four points clear of The Fleet.

Basingstoke Town are now 90 minutes away from a FA Cup First Round tie for the first time in three years after completing a smash-and-grab raid on Ebbsfleet United, who will not be competing in the final qualifying round for the first time since losing a Second Qualifying Round Replay at Fisher Athletic back in 1999.

Ebbsfleet United dominated for 70 minutes and were thwarted on nine occasions by Basingstoke goalkeeper Stuart Moore, 20, who is on a season long loan from Championship neighbours Reading and on this heroic performance will have a very bright future in the game.

But the prolifigate Kent side finally took the lead seven minutes into the second half through 26-year-old striker Charlie Sheringham’s ninth goal of the season, before the Dragons snatched the victory courtesy of two late goals.

Chris Flood, 24, drilled in his ninth goal of the campaign, before Liam Enver-Marum, 26, delivered the sucker punch to knock out his old club with six minutes remaining.

Ebbsfleet United finished the game with ten-men after they lost right-back Joe Howe to a controversial red-card at the death.

“I’m laughing, but I’m not, it’s not funny. I’m laughing because you can’t have as one sided of a game,” said Fleet boss Brown afterwards.

“I thought the second half Tuesday (a 0-0 home draw against Eastbourne Borough) was one-sided but that one….

“I’ve lost count how many goals their keeper has kept out! He was outstanding! I don’t know who he is, I do know who he is, but he was outstanding!

“Was it down to poor finishing or great goalkeeping or a bit of both? I’d say today it was a bit of both because there were some superb reaction saves that he made, free-kicks have hit the crossbar. 

“I don’t know what more we can do than that ball hits the back of the net and you’re three or four nil up, which in truth I think maybe I’m being biased through rose tinted glasses, but I believe we could have been three or four nil up and you’re not worried about a goal or two at the end are you?

“My complaint to the players’ in there was football’s a wicked game. You can dominate for 70 but if you don’t focus and keep concentration for the full 90 things like that can happen.

“I suppose if you’re a manager, most managers will say we’re creating opportunities and someone’s going to get a bit of a slapping but that’s no consolation for us today here at Ebbsfleet and supporters is it?

“We’ve created enough opportunities to win this game and from my perspective that’s a hard pill to swallow.”

Brown added: “Today I’ve had a wonderful performance for 70 minutes yet I’ll drive home tonight not quite understanding how we’ve lost that game!”

The Fleet created eighteen chances, compared to Basingstoke’s five during a one-sided affair.

Ebbsfleet’s first chance arrived inside the opening five minutes.

Howe whipped in a cross from the right which fell to Sheringham’s feet and he placed a left-footed shot towards goal, which was saved by the diving Moore and the flag was already raised for offside before Billy Bricknell smashed the rebound against the crossbar.

Matt Johnson launched a long throw into the penalty area which came out to Anthony Acheampong on the edge of the box and he laid the ball back to Howe, who took a touch before drilling his right-footed shot over the bar from 25-yards.

A clearance from Ebbsfleet keeper Brandon Hall was flicked on by Anthony Cook and Bricknell’s fiercely struck left-footed angled drive was tipped over the bar by man-of-the-match Moore.

Hall launched another kick which was cleared sideways by the Basingstoke defence and Sheringham took a touch to stroke a right-footed drive flashing across Moore and past the far post from 25-yards.

A quickly-taken free-kick from Ebbsfleet skipper Daryl McMahon found winger Cook on the diagonal thanks to a 50-yard pass and he cut in from the left to curl his shot around the far post past the diving Moore.

McMahon then delivered an outswinging corner from the right towards the edge of the box and both Acheampong and Shane Huke headed the ball on and Sheringham’s effort was blocked from within a crowded goal-mouth.

Basingstoke Town – who defeated Ebbsfleet United 1-0 in the Vanarama Conference South at The Camrose on 30 August – weathered the early storm and changed formation and created their first chance after 25 minutes.

Enver-Marum cut the ball back for Jamie Brown, who curled his first time right-footed shot around the far post from 25-yards.

Ebbsfleet United were awarded a free-kick some 30-yards from goal in the 27
th minute and McMahon’s cheeky free-kick bounced right in front of the keeper, who made a smart block with his legs as a couple of players ran across him.

Sheringham then outpaced Basingstoke defender David Ray but dragged his right-footed shot across Moore and past the far post.

Moore made yet another excellent save to thwart Ebbsfleet United a deserved opener with a 35-yard free-kick as the game edged towards half-time.

McMahon saw a gap at the near post and try to curl the ball into that area but the ball skimmed off Johnson’s head instead and Moore dived to his left to push the ball around the post for another brilliant save.

McMahon swung in the resulting corner from the right and Huke came up from the back to divert his header over the bar.

Basingstoke Town right-back Nathan Smart was booked for a challenge on Cook and McMahon agonisingly whipped his left-footed free-kick against the crossbar as he attempted to find the top left-hand corner from 25-yards.

Brown said: “We’ve had lots and lots of opportunities!”

“Macca hit a free-kick earlier that Johnson flicked on and the keeper pulls it off the top corner. He saves from Charlie Sheringham in the first five minutes with his legs that he knows nothing about. He saved a header second half from somebody that he knows nothing about.

“My only compliant, Charlie’s was low. You say hit low and he saved it. 

“We’ve had more than just Macca’s crossbar attempt. Crikey! There must have been ten decent opportunities today and we’ve got one goal from it!”

But Basingstoke Town almost grabbed the lead inside the final four minutes.

Referee Anthony Da Costa awarded the Dragons a free-kick 30-yards from goal and Flood curled his right-footed corner towards the far corner, which forced Brandon Hall to dive to his left to push around the post.

Tom Bird swung in the resulting corner with his left-foot towards the far post where Jamie Brown’s planted header was clawed away by the agile Ebbsfleet keeper.

Hall was playing his sixth game on the bounce, leaving first-choice stopper Preston Edwards on the bench.

Brown said: “If you balance the chances it was three-to-one, four-to-one.  Every chance they had we had three or four decent ones.  I can’t really grumble about of opportunities we’ve created today.  There was enough to comfortably win the game and inevitably we are pretty tight with what we don’t give away and today that’s what the keeper’s for – he was called into action two or three times and made two or three good saves.

“The header was particularly a good save actually. As a reaction it was a very good reaction from Brandon so that’s what keepers are for.”

Frustrated Ebbsfleet United were to be denied by Moore only 80 seconds into the second half.

Basingstoke had a couple of chances to head away Johnson’s long throw and the ball fell to Bricknell, who placed his right-footed volley straight at Moore for save number five.

McMahon appeared frustrated when he looked up into the blue skies after drilling a left-footed angled drive past Moore but into the side netting.

But Ebbsfleet United finally broke the deadlock in the 52
nd minute.

Cook raced down the left and reached the by-line to drill in a cross towards the near post which an unmarked Dean Rance headed across Moore towards the far corner, but the heroic keeper dived to his left to parry and Sheringham was lurking next to the post to nod the ball over the line.

“Cookie has ability to do that so it was a good move. The keeper made a very, very good save from that actually from Dean Rance. He makes the save first and it rebounds and Charlie’s in the right place at the right time.”

Poor defending from Basingstoke gifted possession to Cook, who took a touch before blasting his shot high over the bar from eighteen-yards.

Cook then cut inside Basingstoke substitute right-back Rob Rice and once inside the penalty area his dipping drive was palmed over by Moore’s outstretched right-hand.

Rice came on at the break to replace Smart, who was on a yellow card and was lucky not to pick up a red for a second foul on Cook.

“It was good wide play from Cookie. I thought he got targeted a little bit again today as he tends to do and the few times he took the full-back on, they’ve brought him off because he’s on a booking, because he was bang in trouble.
He (Smart) was going to be sent-off and I thought it was good management from Jason (Bristow).

As the second half edged towards the half-way mark, Moore stooped down to make a comfortable low save, after McMahon was given time and space to unleash a dipping left-footed drive towards goal from 30-yards.

However, Ebbsfleet United will rue the moment when they should have killed the game off – only for Basingstoke Town to equalise just 44 seconds later.

Sheringham played a clever reverse pass to release Bricknell heading towards the by-line inside the Basingstoke penalty area.

Bricknell cut the ball back to McMahon, who instead of shooting from inside the box, decided to lay the ball inside to Cook, who took a couple of touches before his driven shot was blocked as Basingstoke were given a chance to get bodies back behind the ball.  McMahon had a second bite of the cherry, blasting his shot over the bar.

Brown said: “I don’t think it’s a turning point. You see it in real time and I actually thought Daryl did the right thing to lay it off to Cookie. I thought Cookie got surprised by the actual lay-off and was on the back foot. 

“I thought personally, I said to Gritty (Steve Gritt) on the sidelines, the guy would have made a block. He was so close to Macca. I actually thought it was the right decision but without seeing the footage and seeing where the player was in front of Macca you can’t tell if it was the right or wrong decision.

“You make the decisions when you’re in the middle of the game when the ball’s rolling and everything looks a bit hectic.”

But Basingstoke Town turned the game on its head by immediately going up the other end to snatch a 73
rd minute equaliser.

Flood drilled a stunning left-footed shot across Hall into the far corner from 25-yards and picked up a yellow card from the referee for celebrating with the vocal travelling fans housed in the corner of the Liam Daish Stand.

Brown said: “A big hopeful header forward and you’re centre halves the wrong side of the centre forward and he pulls out a finish like that!

“It’s a brilliant finish. What happens is a game where they’ve been outplayed really in terms of chances created they’re suddenly level, in with a fighting chance and you can see their tails are up.”

Cook was a threat down the left and he cut the ball back for Bricknell, who clipped his right-footed drive agonisingly past the far post.

Bricknell then drilled his angled drive into the side netting, before Basingstoke Town snatched an undeserved victory in the final six minutes to join Charlton Athletic (in the Kent Senior Cup) as the only sides to win at Stonebridge Road this season.

Bird swung in a corner from the right which was partially cleared and the ball came back out to Bird, who whipped in a cross with his left-foot into the area for Enver-Marum to glance his header across the stranded Hall into the far corner and celebrated by sliding on his knees and being mobbed by team mates after knocking his old club out of The FA Cup.

“They were slightly a different side for five to ten minutes and we didn’t do well enough on the second phase of the set-piece,” admitted Brown.

“We didn’t shut down Bird quick enough! We didn’t show him outside on to his right foot. Basic errors.  We showed him on his stronger foot, the left-foot. A good delivery in, which we knew he’s got, very good left-foot and the line was too deep so any headers are made it gives Brandon no reaction time.”

Brown added: “You can’t explain 20 minute spells like that sometimes. Something clicks, there’s a bit of pressure, a goal out of nothing. A keeper who’s in outstanding form and those performances you’ve got to take them on the chin.

“If we were dreadful today and we lost 2-1 and it could have been five, I’d be seriously worried and so would the group, but they’re down in there as I am sitting talking to you now, but it won’t be too difficult to pick them up.

“I’ll explain to them what we have been doing and done very, very well. The performance for 70 minutes today was very, very good and that’s what we’ve got to focus on.”

Bricknell and McMahon linked up well in midfield and Howe unleashed a first time left-footed drive from 30-yards, which skidded off the pristine surface and Moore dived to his left to push the ball around the post.

But Howe was to be controversially red-carded at the end when he clattered into Basingstoke substitute Lloyd Macklin on the half-way line to prevent a quick counter-attack and yellow cards were also shown to Matt Godden and Jamie Brown for their part in the resulting melee.

Everyone was expecting the referee to brandish a yellow card because the foul was committed inside the centre circle and he has a long way to go to threaten Hall in the goal.

“I totally agree with you on that,” came Brown’s reply.

“My understanding of the rule is you’ve got to deny a goalscoring opportunity and I don’t know how you can determine that he’s going to go from the half-way line all the way through to our goal and score or get a shot off!

“We had players’ recovering so no arguments with the booking or the foul. It was Joe’s hesitancy that lead to that but can you really, really determine that’s going to lead to a goalscoring opportunity? No!

“There’s so much grey areas there. You’ve got to book him and get on with it but he didn’t, he’s red carded him!

“Will we appeal? No, because we won’t win it because he’ll come up against us by the letter of the law.  He’ll say he was the last man and you can’t argue that he couldn’t have gone through so it will stick.”

Reflecting on the club’s harsh FA Cup exit, Brown added: “That’s how quickly football can turn and bite you on the backside!

“A last 20 minute spell where they’ve not deserved anything out of the game they’ve gone through to the next round and we’re sat here all deeply depressed about the result but it’s not nice but all you can do is try to learn a lesson with what’s just unfolded in front of our eyes.”

Brown said he will get his players back on their Cobham based training ground on Monday morning to work on things ahead of their Vanarama Conference South trip to third-from-bottom Hemel Hempstead Town next weekend.

“I always analyse the goals conceded because we’re very difficult to beat and we’ve only conceded six in the league and we very rarely let two goals in here so I’ll be looking myself personally at the goals conceded because it’s always work that you can do to improve on when you’re conceding goals as we did today.

“In terms of chances created, I’ve always said those strikers will always score goals as long as you create a number of opportunities but you will have days where they don’t score goals.

“The focus is getting back on the training ground and working on a way to beat Hemel Hempstead because the best way you can get over this is to win the next league game and all the focus becomes across the week is making sure we’re 100% certain about the way to go around getting three points next Saturday.”

Ebbsfleet United: Brandon Hall, Joe Howe, Aiden Palmer, Daryl McMahon, Anthony Acheampong, Shane Huke, Matt Johnson (Matt Godden 77), Dean Rance, Charlie Sheringham, Billy Bricknell, Anthony Cook.
Subs: Kenny Clark, Preston Edwards, Michael Corcoran, Chris Sessegnon, Jordan Sanderson, Leo Mazzone

Goal: Charlie Sheringham 52

Booked: Anthony Cook 50, Dean Rance 80, Matt Godden 90

Sent off: Joe Howe 90

Basingstoke Town: Stuart Moore, Nathan Smart (Rob Rice 46), Tom Bird, Louie Soares, Jay Gasson, David Ray, Jamie Brown, Shaun McAuley, Liam Enver-Marum, Chris Flood, Andrew Jenkinson (Lloyd Macklin 68).
Subs: Sam Argent, George Hallahan, Watt Jones, Gidson Vawake, McCauley Stubbs

Goals:  Chris Flood 73, Liam Enver-Marum 84

Booked: Tom Bird 30, Nathan Smart 39, Chris Flood 73, Jamie Brown 90

Attendance: 953
Referee: Mr Anthony Da Costa (Cambridge, Cambridgeshire)
Assistants: Mr Stuart Franklin (Wickford, Essex) & Mr James Whittaker (Wickford, Essex)