Vanarama National League

Vanarama National League column

Christmas and New Year – tiring train journeys, extra roast potatoes and hitting the post.

By Luke Coulson of the FWA and Ebbsfleet United

Bursts of orange, red and yellow lit up the night sky as the fireworks continued to welcome in the New Year and disturb my sleep. That evening, in preparation for my game the following day, I opted for chicken and pasta instead of champagne. However, my neighbours didn’t make the same choice as they continued to party late into the night with most of the country.

A week prior to the beginning of 2018, we travelled to Lancashire to play against Fylde at the beginning of our chaotic Christmas schedule. The managing staff decided for us to travel by train for the first time so that we could return home sooner to be with our families over the festive period – a decision that was gratefully welcomed by the team.

On the morning of the 23rd, the train journey north was tedious and busy with passengers travelling to their Christmas holiday destinations. Yet despite the journey, the long day was worth our time as we returned to Ebbsfleet with a valuable away point after our excellent performance resulted in a 1-1 draw.

Over the festive period, the schedule of fixtures is relentless with a strenuous and draining four games in just ten days. Despite Christmas being a time of joy and celebration, the hectic schedule means that many footballers have short holidays that have to be controlled in terms of eating and drinking.

After the Fylde match, I travelled to Bristol to spend Christmas with my family before driving three hours back to Ebbsfleet on Christmas Day, ready for our Boxing Day game. Although, I resisted the temptation of mince pies and Christmas pudding, I must admit my will power faltered when I was asked if I wanted an extra roast potato, which may be the reason I struck the woodwork twice against Bromley but was unable to find the net. Although, I was able to assist Danny Kedwell who tapped home the winning goal and his 11th goal of the campaign as he continued his prolific run of form in our 2-1 home win.

If the Christmas break is tiring then the fixtures over New Year are exhausting. With only three days to recover from our Boxing Day game, two fixtures in three days awaited us to celebrate the beginning of the New Year. Firstly, we played Dagenham and Redbridge in our final game of 2017 and just as in our match against Fylde, a late equaliser for the opposition meant we shared the spoils in an identical 1-1 draw.

Two days later on New Year’s Day, we travelled 45 minutes up the road to face a Bromley team that we had beaten six days earlier. Yet this time, it was not only on a 3G surface but live on BT Sport. Unfortunately, in front of TV cameras, we weren’t able to replicate the previous result and we suffered our first defeat in seven games, losing 4-2.

If dominating our match against Bromley and losing was hard to take, then the following game against Chester was unbearable. We dictated the game from start to finish, controlled possession and created chance after chance. However, owing to misfortune and some last-ditch defending from Chester, we couldn’t equalise after their undeserved opening goal and suffered our second loss in a matter of days.

Yet the losses came to an abrupt end as we returned to winning ways last night (Tuesday) with an excellent win at Maidstone. A local derby match is always difficult especially with a passionate home crowd; however our team performance was superb and was equally matched by our travelling support. The 2-1 win keeps us tenth in the table but closes the gap to three points from the playoffs, a gap that can easily be closed.

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