Vanarama National League column – April 18
The National League run-in by Luke Coulson, Ebbsfleet United and FWA member
Crystal, blue sea accompanied by soft, white sand and blanketed by a clear, blue sky. That will no doubt be the thought on many players’ minds with only ten days of the season remaining. However, in our minds, the thought of sand doesn’t compare with the grass of Wembley.
Two weeks ago, we were unbeaten in seven games and moving up the Vanarama National League table. Yet, our fine form nearly came to an end at the hands of Macclesfield, live on BT Sport. Despite a commanding first 30 minutes, a scrappy away goal for the league leaders killed our momentum and early in the second half, their lead was doubled through a well executed training ground corner. It was hard to see a way back against such an organised team, however, a Danny Kedwell penalty restored our hope and two minutes later a straight red card for Macclesfield’s striker, Nathan Blisset, gave us the advantage. With ten minutes to go, the comeback was complete thanks to a curling Dean Rance strike. Although, it looked as though we may go on to find the winner, Macclesfield defended well with ten men and we had to settle for a share of the points.
On the following Tuesday night, when Roma scored three goals to knockout Barcelona from the Champions League, we scored three goals against Wrexham to close the gap in the National League. Yet, the only difference was that our result was expected. We exploded into the game from kick off, creating countless opportunities. However, we only capitalised on our superior display in the 50th minute when Corey Whitely scored a low strike at the near post. The opening goal seemed to ease our nerves and our relentless pressure allowed us to score two late goals. With ten minutes to go, Kedwell found the bottom corner with a low strike and I found the top corner in stoppage time to claim an emphatic win and a huge three points against another playoff rival.
Following the dismantling of Wrexham, we travelled the dreaded 325 mile trip to face Barrow, a team trying to climb out of the relegation zone. At this stage of the season, a team at the bottom of the league can be the worst team to play as they desperately need the points, however, we stood up to the challenge. The match wasn’t filled with quality, yet it was abundant with resolute defending and a determination to claim all three points. In the 32nd minute, Dean Rance scored his third goal in ten games and the only goal of the game with a brilliant reactive finish into the top corner. A late onslaught was inevitable from the home side but the dedicated 76 Ebbsfleet fans who made the tedious trip, witnessed a strong and professional defensive performance to keep our clean sheet.
If the journey to Barrow wasn’t enough, last night we travelled to Eastleigh to play our fourth game in eleven days. The result and performance was symmetrical to the weekend, a narrow 1-0 win backed up with an impressive and unyielding defensive display. In the second half, Nathan Ashmore saved a penalty to keep the score level and in the 82nd minute, Kenny Clark rose highest to meet a Jack Powell corner and score the winning goal. However, although the goal has been awarded to Clark, apparently Harry Kane may be contesting the decision.
The victory last night has not only extended our unbeaten run to eleven games but has moved us into the playoffs with a game in hand. If our unbelievable form continues throughout our remaining three fixtures, the palm trees and cocktails will just have to wait a little longer.