Brown demands title challenge from Ebbsfleet after Dover play-off final loss

Steve Brown consoles Joe Howe at the final whistle

Aiden Palmer (right) shakes hands with Dover captain Craig Stone

Ben May (sitting) is left stunned at the end

Dover keeper Mitchell Walker is a relieved man after Alex Osborn's effort flies just off target

The Liam Daish stand was packed to the rafters by an impressive 4,294. Sadly the home fans had little to cheer.

First published in Sport
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Ebbsfleet United manager Steve Brown challenged his side to go one better next season after Saturday’s 1-0 Conference South play-off final defeat against Dover Athletic.

The Fleet had home advantage for the match but lost by a solitary goal in a cagey game low on chances, with former Stonebridge Road player Nathan Elder scoring the 56th minute winner.

News Shopper: Aiden Palmer (right) shakes hands with Dover captain Craig Stone

Brown revealed at the final whistle he wants to win the league next season in order to avoid suffering the same heartbreak again - and he already has players in mind to help him achieve his target.

“I’ve challenged the players in there after the game,” Brown said.

“The challenge is to go one better.

“Let’s not have to go through the lottery of the play-offs but let’s do what Eastleigh have done.

“That’s the challenge that was set down to the players and staff who’ll remain here - it’s to make sure

News Shopper: Ben May (sitting) is left stunned at the end

Ebbsfleet United are going up at the top end of the table and not relying on the lottery of the play-offs.

“We have transfer targets and they would have adjusted if we’d have gone up today, but some of those targets would have come to us regardless.

“What we’ve done here off the field, and what we’ve created in terms of players phoning me and texting me wanting to come here, is a real positive.

“They understand what we’re trying to create and when players hear some of the stories coming out of Ebbsfleet in terms of what we do with our squad, they’re keen to join.”

He added: “Some people will want to play in a higher league, naturally, so then they’ll become a cross on our list.

“There were targets based on both leagues, so some will have gone today and some will remain.”

Brown pointed out there is a fine margin between success and failure in a play-off final but accepted Dover had ultimately capitalised on the promotion chance presented to them.

The Fleet chief explained: “We knew it was going to be really tight and unfortunately it’s not gone our way.

“It’s one of those ones where we’re sat in the dressing room licking our wounds and Dover are out there taking selfies. That’s football.

News Shopper: Dover keeper Mitchell Walker is a relieved man after Alex Osborn's effort flies just off target

“Dover have won at Sutton and now they’ve won here.

“In terms of getting into the play-offs late and making the most of their situation, they’ve absolutely done that.”

Brown also felt although his team shaded possession against Dover in the final, they did not create enough chances to win the game.

He said: “We knew what was coming our way today but when you have a team who plays the way they do, you know it’s going to be difficult.

“That’s why they’ve got the best away record in the league, as they try to stop goals first before getting something on the counter or from a set piece.

News Shopper: The Liam Daish stand was packed to the rafters by an impressive 4,294. Sadly the home fans had little to cheer.

“We knew about that, but if you look back over the 90 minutes it was a tight game and there wasn’t much either way.

“I thought we used the ball better than they did but the only statistics that counts, unfortunately, is they scored one and we didn’t, so we have to go again next year in the Conference South.

“We pressed for an equaliser but Alex Osborn had a shot the wrong side of the post and Walker made a very good save.

“It was one of those days where you prod and you move the ball but we didn’t create a great deal and you just need a little bit of luck.

“I thought the first half was all us but we didn’t create enough in possession of the ball and that was the story of the day.”

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