Fleet suffer setback at play-off rivals Sutton United

News Shopper: Simon Downer is mobbed by Jamie Taylor, Lee Sawyer and Louis John after giving Sutton the lead. Picture by Paul Loughlin. Simon Downer is mobbed by Jamie Taylor, Lee Sawyer and Louis John after giving Sutton the lead. Picture by Paul Loughlin.

Ebbsfleet United suffered a disappointing 3-1 defeat away to play-off rivals Sutton United on a sunny Saturday afternoon at The Borough Sports Ground.

The Fleet had most of the goal-scoring opportunities in the first hour but found Sutton keeper Jason Brown in imperious form and only managed one goal, coming in the form of a Daryl McMahon free-kick.

For the last half an hour, the hosts seemed to raise their game an extra level and scored two quick goals before gaining a late third on the counter attack.

Steve Brown named one change from the side that conceded a late equaliser to Staines, with Alex Osborne replacing the injured Dean Rance.

Sutton manager Paul Doswell fielded a 4-4-2 formation that looked to get the ball down and pass it on the floor, although their game was disrupted by the early loss of captain Charlie Clough with a hamstring injury.

The game got off to a quiet start, with Ebbsfleet’s Billy Bricknell firing over from 18-yards and Sutton’s Gavin McCallum clearing the bar when well-placed in the six-yard box.

Fleet striker Ben May then nodded the ball down to Anthony Cook but his placed shot was comfortably saved by former Gillingham and Wales keeper Jason Brown.

Sutton substitute Craig Dundas was then played through on the right of the box and saw his shot at goal roll harmlessly wide of the post.

The best chance of a first half low on action fell to Bricknell late on as he raced on to a long pass downfield, finding himself clean through on goal.

However, his powerful shot lacked conviction and was well-saved by Brown’s legs.

The same two players were in action seconds after half-time as Bricknell received the ball from a May flick-on but Brown did well to parry the striker’s shot from the edge of the area.

Fleet then had a penalty appeal turned down for handball, but took the lead moments later in the 49th minute.

McMahon curled a low free-kick from just outside the area around the wall and under the dive of Brown, who may have been disappointed not to save the shot.

Following the goal, the hosts seemed to step their game up, although this was helped by Ebbsfleet dropping very deep and being unable to keep the ball.

A long period of Sutton possession came without much goal-mouth action.

But as soon as it looked like the Fleet had ridden this spell out and were beginning to get a foothold back into the game, on 67 minutes, Jamie Taylor was played clean through and scored with a fine finish across goal past keeper Preston Edwards.

Four minutes later, the hosts took the lead.

Lee Sawyer’s cross found Simon Downer, who forced the ball over the line from close range after his initial shot had been blocked.

The Fleet then pushed forward for an equaliser and Anthony Acheampong saw a header fly over, although Sutton almost added a third when Kane Haysman’s long range drive was tipped onto the bar by Edwards.

But the third goal did eventually come in the 86th minute.

A quick counter-attack downfield saw Haysman strike the post before the rebound was headed home by Taylor to wrap up the three points and leave The Fleet nervously looking over their shoulders at in-form teams vying for a place in the play-offs.

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Ebbsfleet: Edwards, Howe, Palmer, McMahon, Acheampong, Sankofa, Corcoran, Osborn, May (Sessegnon 71), Bricknell, Cook (Thalassitis 71) Subs not used: Hall, Lorraine, Huke. Att: 721.

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