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Ebbsfleet 1-0 Folkestone Invicta
EBBSFLEET United laboured into the FA Cup third qualifying round on Saturday as they overcame a stubborn Folkestone Invicta side at Stonebridge Road.
Despite taking the lead through an early Daryl McMahon free-kick and creating a number of opportunities, the hosts never truly looked comfortable against their lower league opponents, who almost equalised when Dane Luchford’s second half shot struck the post.
Ebbsfleet manager Steve Brown made three changes from the side that drew against Boreham Wood, with Osei Sankofa, Ben May and Tom Phipp replacing Joe Howe, cup-tied Andy Pugh and the injured Stacy Long respectively.
Folkestone’s Neil Cugley is now the longest serving manager in Kent after being in charge for 14 seasons and was able to welcome young starlet Johan Ter Horst back into the squad after a cheek injury, although the 18-year-old was only fit enough for the bench.
The Fleet started the strongest and should have taken the lead in the first minute when Shane Huke found space in the penalty area but shot straight at keeper Tom Hadler.
They did not have to wait too long to go ahead, though, as a sixth minute 20-yard McMahon free-kick from the wing evaded both attackers and defenders alike before nestling into the bottom corner with Hadler wrong-footed.
Anthony Cook and May then both had efforts off target, while a McMahon lob from the edge of the area went just over as the hosts looked to double their lead.
Ebbsfleet’s central defensive pair of Huke and Paul Lorraine were a danger from set pieces and this showed when Lorraine had a volley cleared off the line, while Huke saw a header parried.
The hosts’ charge eventually faded, though, and Dale Lutchford spurned two good opportunities to equalise before the break.
He first scuffed a shot wide after being played through on goal and then curled a shot just past the post after the Fleet gifted possession to Matt Newman.
Cook forced a good save from Hadler immediately after the break after beating Nat Blanks on the touchline and firing an angled near post shot.
Invicta were unlucky not to equalise moments later when Luchford was once again played in behind the defence and beat Edwards with a well-placed shot, but was unfortunate to see it bounce off the inside of the post before being cleared.
This gave the visitors renewed confidence and for 15 minutes they had the Fleet penned back into their own half and looking nervous.
However, they were unable to carve out many more opportunities, with the hosts eventually gaining composure and seeing out the tie to avoid a potential banana skin.
The Fleet will now play either Farnborough or Eastbourne Borough at home in the next round.
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Ebbsfleet: Edwards, Sankofa, Palmer, McMahon, Lorraine, Huke, Cook, Rance, May (Thalassitis 66), Bricknell, Phipp (Green). Subs not used: Howe, Hall, Osborn, Fakinos. Att: 737.
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