Ebbsfleet United began a crucial week in style by securing the Kent Senior Cup with a convincing victory at against Dover at Priestfield yesterday.
With the two sides meeting in the Conference South play-off final on Saturday, this was a good opportunity to gain some momentum before the big match.
However, it is questionable whether any real advantage was gained by Fleet both managers made wholesale changes.
Fleet manager Steve Brown made six from Saturday’s team which lost 1-0 in the second leg semi-final at Bromley, with fans’ favourite Paul Lorraine being awarded the captain’s armband in what could well be his last match for the club.
Dover boss Chris Kinnear went even further than Brown, changing his entire starting XI and resting every player who had impressively overcome Sutton United 3-0 just 48 hours earlier, instead fielding a number of academy players.
With both sides making so many switches, and also playing in an unfamiliar setting, the game got off to a quiet start, with neither side able to keep possession.
Eventually Ebbsfleet settled down and their experience in comparison to Dover’s youth began to show.
Lorraine had a header comfortably saved by Lee Hook before the Fleet took the lead after 18 minutes when a Daryl McMahon corner was headed across goal by Michael Thalassitis to Osei Sankofa, who nodded home from close range.
Dover nearly equalised as left wing-back Ricky Gabriel’s innocuous header bounced into the ground and almost went over the backpedalling Brandon Hall, who just managed to cling onto the ball.
A great piece of interplay between Ebbsfleet’s Stacy Long and Anthony Cook ended with Cook back-heeling to his team-mate, but Long’s shot across goal lacked power and was saved by Hook.
However, the lead was doubled three minutes after half-time.
Aiden Palmer found himself some space on the left and swung in a great cross to Alex Osborn, who headed past Hook from six yards.
Ebbsfleet then began to dominate and the game started to resemble more of a pre-season friendly than a cup final.
Cook cut inside from the left and curled an effort just over the bar before a great piece of team build-up play ended with the winger playing in McMahon, who fired across goal and wide.
A moment of quality from McMahon made it 3-0 in the 65th minute when he played a one-two from a corner with Long and curled a shot around Hook from the corner of the area.
Palmer then fired over twice in quick succession from good positions inside the box, while Dover’s best chance of the whole game fell to Elliott Charles, who saw his shot hit the post after racing through on goal.
The scoring was completed in added time as Long tapped in from close range, but the Fleet will not expect to have it so easy when the two teams meet at Stonebridge Road on Saturday.
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Ebbsfleet: Hall, Sessegnon, Palmer, McMahon (Mazzone 67), Lorraine, Sankofa, Osborn, Huke (Barnes 74), Thalassitis, Long, Cook (Howe 65). Subs not used: Edwards, Bricknell. Att: 1,524.