The Harriers eased their way into the 3rd round of the FA Trophy at Aggborough today against an Ebbsfleet side that didn't offer as much as we expected them to. With both clubs riding high in their respective leagues most Harriers supporters were expecting a tough conflict and the strong possibility that the game would be drawn meaning a replay down in Kent on a freezing cold Tuesday evening. Thankfully that wasn't to be.
There were a few changes to the Harriers side that lost in the league at Salford last weekend. Out went Elton N'Gwatala to allow a first start for Darryl Knights, Mani Dieseruvwe made way for Andre Brown while Sam Austin moved from his temporary full back berth to take the place of Tyrell Waite out wide. Ashley Carter was sacrificed for new loan signing Josh Ezewele following his arrival from Yeovil Town to take up that free left back position while Zaine Francis-Angol is out injured.
Ebbsfleet are in second place in the Conference South and with a smattering of quality players you could see why. Sam Deering, Danny Kedwell and Darren McQueen were the main ones on display today but to be honest only McQueen showed his pedigree with both Deering and Kedwell being so well marshalled by Keith Lowe and Jordan Tunnicliffe that Deering was withdrawn at halftime for being totally in-effective.
Following a well respected minutes silence for the late Graham Taylor the game kicked off in freezing conditions. It was the Harriers who were the first to warm up the crowd by coming close to opening the scoring within the opening two minutes. A James McQuilkin through ball split the visitors defence to allow Andre Brown in to shoot. His fierce shot from the edge of the area forced Nathan Ashmore into action but he still couldn't stop Browns dipping shot flying off the top of the crossbar. A few minutes later Sam Austin followed up that effort by forcing Ashmore to tip away his shot that was heading for the back of the net.
The Fleet began to recover from the hectic opening of the game and began to slow it down to their pace by tightening up their defence a little and we began to find scoring chances harder to work out. Deering had a diving header that Alex palmer did well to keep out and Jack Powell hit the post from a free kick when he seemingly mis-hit it instead of floating the ball to his waiting team mates.
The first Harriers goal came from a moment of dis-belief. Darryl Knights played the newcomer, Ezewele, in out wide and he then set off for the byeline leaving his marker trailing. Ezewele then dribbled to ball along the byeline until you had though he had gone too far and had hit a dead end but, no, he found the tiniest of spaces between the post and Ashmore to poke the ball through and into the far side of the goal. Having never played for his first club, West Brom, and only ten minutes for his present club Yeovil then to start your first professional game and score is the stuff that dreams are made of.
Four minutes later and the Reds were two goals to the good and it was the other full back, Tyrone Williams, who was to get on the scoresheet. A corner was played out to McQuilkin who then set himself up with a clear sight of goal and struck. The ball was heading for goal, there's no doubt about that, but with Ashmore diving to meet it Williams put a foot out to deflect the ball the other way and leave the Fleet keeper diving at thin air.
The remainder of the half was played out with Ebbsfleet trying their hardest to stop us from going further in front.