Ebbsfleet boss wants packed Stonebridge Road for Dover play-off final

Fleet manager Steve Brown

Fleet manager Steve Brown

First published in Sport by

Steve Brown wants Stonebridge Road packed to the rafters for Saturday’s play-off final date with Dover Athletic.

The Fleet are just 90 minutes away from returning to the Conference at the first attempt after overcoming Bromley 4-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals.

But standing in their way are Brown’s former side Dover who stunned Sutton 3-0 away on Saturday to progress by the same 4-1 aggregate margin as the Fleet.

However, it is the north Kent club who have home advantage in this weekend’s final after finishing one place higher than their county coastal opponents in the Conference South table, something the Fleet manager is determined to make count.

Brown said: “I will be making all kinds of requests for Stonebridge Road to be full next weekend, because if we can get it full, it makes a huge difference.

“The Dartford game this year was probably the most enjoyable game for me.

“We drew 1-1 and I felt we deserved to win both ties, home and away, but I loved the atmosphere.

“When we’ve got 2,000 plus or 3,000 plus the atmosphere is electric.

“I’ll be making all kind of noises all week to get as many into the ground as we can get.”

In a bizarre twist of fate Fleet yesterday took on Dover in the Kent Cup final at Gillingham FC and it was advantage Stonebridge Road as Brown’s side emerged as comfortable 4-0 victors.

Goals from Osei Sankofa, Alex Osborn, Daryl McMahon and Stacy Long secured the trophy, although both teams made wholesale changes to their starting XIs.

And with Dover having already beaten the Fleet two times this season, Brown felt it was important not to lose for a third time.

He said: “We’ve already lost twice to Dover, we’re fully aware of that.

“If we’d have lost today then they’d have been able to say they’ve beaten us three times, so it was nice to get the result in the bag.

“It was a clean sheet and a good win.

“They’ll argue they’ve played the kids, but when you do that it does give you a readymade excuse, as on paper we’d have been expected to win.

“But confidence-wise and morale-wise it’s four goals and another clean sheet.

“There were some terrific performances.”

Notable among these was the display of skipper for the day Paul Lorraine in what will probably be his last appearance for the Fleet.

Brown added: “Paul Lorraine picked up man of the match and I felt he was outstanding.

“He’s not been in the side since he picked up an injury in February - and it’s well-documented he’ll be moving on as he can’t commit to the morning training sessions next year - but he put in a captain’s performance today.

“Stacy Long has come into the side and I thought he was terrific, as he didn’t stop moving or passing and he got his goal towards the end.

“From our perspective, we’ve always said we’re a tight unit and today showed how tight we are, as the lads who haven’t been playing went out there and played brilliantly.”

With six changes to the XI which started Ebbsfleet’s previous match at Bromley, and Dover manager Chris Kinnear fielding a completely different team, Brown said he was not reading too much into the result.

But the Fleet chief did admit he was surprised by just how many players his opponents rested.

He explained: “We didn’t have too many places to go in terms of what we had available to us, but we spoke to everybody over the weekend, assessed their fitness and then picked the ones who were available and a formation..

“I got a 16 and a 17-year-old involved as well, otherwise we were only going to have three on the bench, but we got the ruling last night that anyone signed for Ebbsfleet could be involved.

“It was good for us as we could fill the bench and we managed to get them on.”

Brown added: “I was a bit surprised by the selection of their squad, as I thought they’d go a bit stronger than that, but you’ve still got to get the job done and beat what’s in front of you.

“I thought we were patient, as we didn’t chase things down.

“It was a hot day and there’s an important game on Saturday, so we got the balance of the work and the result spot on.”

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