Whitehawk 1-2 Ebbsfleet United - I think before the game if I was offered a one goal lead going back to Stonebridge Road I would've taken it, we probably could've won by more, says Daryl McMahon

Wednesday 04th May 2016
Whitehawk 1 – 2 Ebbsfleet United
Location The Enclosed Ground, Wilson Avenue, East Brighton, Brighton, East Sussex BN2 5TS
Kickoff 04/05/2016 19:45

Vanarama National League South Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg
Wednesday 4th May 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from The Enclosed Ground

EBBSFLEET UNITED manager Daryl McMahon says he would’ve taken a one-goal lead going into the Vanarama National League South Play-Off Semi-Final Second Leg on Sunday.

The Fleet came away from Brighton with a deserved 2-1 win over a Whitehawk side that went into the game unbeaten in seven games (winning six of them).

Sutton United celebrated winning the league title with 90 points from 42 games, while Ebbsfleet United finished runners-up on 84 points, while Maidstone United (77), Truro City (65) and Whitehawk (64) also qualified for the play-offs.

A winner-takes-all clash between Ebbsfleet United and Maidstone United on Saturday 14 May still looks on the cards after the Stones came away from Truro City with a 2-0 win, courtesy of goals from Joe Healy and Alex Flisher.

Ebbsfleet United weathered The Hawks early storm and took the lead through central midfielder’s Stuart Lewis’ sweeping finish, only his second goal of the season.

Former Gillingham striker Danny Kedwell powered home a stunning free-kick to score his 13th goal of the season to give Ebbsfleet United a commanding two-goal lead.

But Whitehawk pulled a goal back through striker Danny Mills’ 33rd goal of the season to ensure there’s everything still to play for going into Sunday’s Second-Leg at Stonebridge Road.

“Good win, we’re pleased we’ve come away with a win.  They’ve been on fantastic form so it’s a good win. We go back to Stonebridge Road, half-time and we look forward to that game,” said McMahon.

“I’m pleased with the performance. It was a very good performance. We created a number of chances. We’re pleased with that, very pleased with that.”

The Hawks started the game on the front foot and fifteen-goal striker Jake Robinson latched onto David Martin’s flick to poke his shot across goal before being the ball was cleared away after only 58 seconds.

Former Dartford winger Martin should have given Whitehawk the lead inside the opening five minutes.

Nick Arnold swung in a free-kick from the left with his right-foot and Martin’s free header from 15-yards at the far post looped over the crossbar.

McMahon said: “I thought the first 20 minutes, Whitehawk were very, very good. They took the game to us, they were on the front foot and they didn’t really create anything but they were very positive and got the ball forward quickly.

“I thought we weathered that little bit of a storm really well and then we came into the game.”

Former Whitehawk winger Sam Deering was booed upon his return to The Enclosed Ground and he was taken out by Arnaud Mendy’s lunge and got back up to float in a free-kick which Kedwell hooked shot drifted past the far post from 20-yards.

Whitehawk striker Robinson cut in from the right and cracked a right-footed drive from 35-yards which drew a comfortable save from visiting goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore.

Ebbsfleet United right-back Dean Pooley whipped in a cross into the Whitehawk box where striker Matthew Godden sent his free header over the bar.

But thirty-goal striker Godden squandered the best chance of the game in the 26th minute.

Kedwell played the ball forward in between Whitehawk’s two central defenders Chris M’Boungou and Jordan Rose for Godden, who scuffed his right-footed shot past the foot of the left-hand post from 18-yards.

McMahon added: “It was a good chance for Gods but I think it was a bit bobbly out there tonight. I think he couldn’t really get it under control to get the shot away.  I think he snatched at it a little bit.”

But Ebbsfleet United’s segregated 319 travelling fans were celebrating when their side opened the scoring after 29 minutes.

Central midfielder Dean Rance fed Godden down the right and he slipped the ball into Kedwell, on the right hand side of the penalty area.

Kedwell decided against shooting and cut the ball back for Lewis, who swept a first time shot across keeper Craig Ross from 12-yards, the ball kissing the foot of the far post before nestling inside the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.

McMahon added: “Very good finish, good pass back from Kedwell, a little cut-back from Kedwell and a good finish from Stu.”

Martin left his man in his tracks and cut in from the right but his left-footed drive from 30-yards sailed harmlessly high and wide of his intended target.

The impressive Godden passed the ball into Deering’s feet but the diminutive winger allowed the ball to run through to Ross, who picked up the rolling ball as the Kent side held the upper hand going into the break.

When asked what he said to his troops at the break, McMahon said: “Just keep doing what they’re doing. I think we created a number of chances particularly first half. We had them under control.  I said just do the same again and I thought we did and we created a number of chances in the second half.”

Ebbsfleet United were to be denied a tie changing second inside the opening seven minutes of the second half.

Keeper Ashmore launched a big kick downfield, the ball was flicked on by Godden and put winger Anthony Cook through on goal.

Cook, who won the Conference South title with Bromley last season, cut inside and drilled his right-footed shot towards goal, Ross making a fine save, palming the ball towards safety with an outstretched hand.

Cook then turned provider as he put Godden through on goal, but a poor touch from the striker allowed the Whitehawk keeper to gather.

Whitehawk’s drum-banging supporters were excellent, giving their players great support and not using any swear words in any of their songs and they were a credit to their club.

They were almost celebrating an equaliser following their fourth corner in the 59th minute.

Winger Arnold swung in a brilliant delivery from the right towards the near post and Godden’s back-header sailed just over his own crossbar.

Whitehawk’s players responded in a positive manner with skipper Sergio Torres hitting his right-footed angled drive flashing past the far post from 25-yards after Ebbsfleet cleared away Arnold’s right-wing cross.

Ebbsfleet United went close to killing off the hosts at the halfway mark when Deering released Godden, who cracked a right-footed shot on the turn, which dipped just over the bar from 25-yards.

Cook then latched onto Godden’s knock down to cut inside and curl his shot just around the far post from outside the penalty area.

Whitehawk came agonisingly close to equalising in the final 20 minutes when the post saved Ebbsfleet United.

Rance lost the ball and Arnold ran forward and stroked his right-footed drive towards the near corner from 20-yards. Ashmore dived to his left and was relieved to see the ball clip the outside of the post.

McMahon said confidently: “Yes, I don’t think it’s a bit of luck. We forced them wide, I think Nathan had it covered anyway, he would’ve saved it.”

Ebbsfleet United went up the other end to double their advantage by notching their second with a quality finish in the 74th minute.

Torres fouled Cook and that proved to be a big mistake as Kedwell powered his right-footed free-kick from 25-yards into the top left-hand corner, helped in by Ross’s right hand.

McMahon added: “Keds can hit the ball our Keds. It was a fantastic striker and he’s got that Kedwell, he’s a powerful player.”

Whitehawk pulled a goal back with eight minutes remaining through prolific hit-man Mills, who was otherwise kept quiet by Kenny Clark and Anthony Acheampong at the heart of The Fleet’s defence.

Substitute David Ijaha played the ball inside to Torres, who drove his left-footed angled drive towards the bottom far corner from 18-yards, which was pushed away by Ashmore diving low to his right but Mills pounced to steer in the rebound from eight-yards.

McMahon added: “We’re disappointed with that! We’re disappointed them getting the shot away, maybe Nathan could’ve put it wider as well and we’ve got to follow in Danny Mills and get there first.

“Look, it happens. The boys across the board tonight in defence were fantastic, fantastic to be fair to them.  We’ve limited Whitehawk to very little considering the quality of player they’ve got so we’re pleased we’ve got something.”

McMahon chose Clark ahead of benched Tom Bonner and explained that move.

“Clarky’s been steadily getting fit and I thought it was a game for him playing against Mills,” said McMahon.

“Clarky’s pace and Clarky’s power and I thought Clarky was outstanding tonight.”

Whitehawk sensed blood and Arnold played the ball in from the right but Robinson failed to get his shot on target at the near post but they couldn’t grab an equaliser as Ebbsfleet United put in a very good performance.

Ebbsfleet United created the final chance of the night when Kedwell’s inside pass set up substitute Charlie Sheringham, but he was denied by a fine save from Ross.

With Gillingham completing their League One campaign with Millwall visiting Priestfield Stadium on Sunday, kicking off at 12:30, Kent Police have advised both Ebbsfleet United and Maidstone United to put back their kick-off’s until 16:00 on the same day.

McMahon urges Ebbsfleet United fans to pack Stonebridge Road and get his side into the Final.

“We’ve done very well. Listen, Whitehawk are a good side, they’re in fantastic form, they’ve won six in their last seven.  They’re in terrific form. I thought we’ve played really well. 

“We’ve created a number of chances and if we’d have gone away winning 2-0, winning by two goals, they would’ve have complained about that.

“I think before the game if I was offered a one-goal lead going back to Stonebridge Road, I would’ve taken it, of course.   The way the game panned out, we probably could’ve won by more but it is what it is.

“I’m looking forward to Sunday. We’re not a team that sits back and defends, that’s not how we play. We’ll go and take Whitehawk on.  I’m sure they’ll do the same thing to us. I’m sure it will be an entertaining game on a better pitch as well to be fair.  I think it will suit both teams playing at our place.”

One Whitehawk fan even asked McMahon Ebbsfleet United’s policy for bringing drums into Stonebridge Road. But Ebbsfleet United fans must crank up the noise to compete with Whitehawk’s vocal support here tonight.

“Without a doubt,” said McMahon.  “When we played Chelmsford at home the crowd were outstanding that day and speaking to a few Chelmsford players after the game they had said the noise they’ve never seen it before at Ebbsfleet. They were our 12th man that day.

“We need them again on Sunday, without a doubt. Whitehawk have got a terrific crowd as well.

“We’ve been back since July 1st and we’re working every day all season for this, for these moments and we’re looking forward to it.”

Whitehawk: Craig Ross, Liam Graham (Chris Sessegnon 80), Sam Rents, Chris M’Boungou, Jordan Rose, Arnaud Mendy (David Ijaha 73), Nick Arnold, Sergio Torres, Jake Robinson, Danny Mills, David Martin.
Subs: Tom Fraser, Sam Gargan, Juan Cruz Gotta

Goal: Danny Mills 82

Booked: Arnaud Mendy 14, Liam Graham 39, Sergio Torres 73

Ebbsfleet United: Nathan Ashmore, Dean Pooley, Joe Howe, Stuart Lewis, Anthony Acheampong, Kenny Clark, Sam Deering, Dean Rance, Danny Kedwell, Matthew Godden (Charlie Sheringham 87), Anthony Cook.
Subs: Jonathan Miles, Tom Bonner, Jordan Parkes, Sean Shields

Goals: Stuart Lewis 29, Danny Kedwell 74

Booked: Matthew Godden 41, Dean Rance 58, Anthony Cook 90

Attendance: 1,055 (319 away)
Referee: Mr Andrew Laver (Portsmouth, Hampshire)
Assistants: Mr Antony Foster & Mr Daniel Berry
Fourth Official: Mr Paul Kelly (Walderslade)