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Breathing space - Shakes steers sturdy Fleet to safety...for now

PUBLISHED: 13:09 02 April 2009 | UPDATED: 10:36 23 August 2010

EBBSFLEET United moved out of the Blue Square Premier relegation zone with a hard-fought victory over a plucky Altrincham at Stonebridge Road on Tuesday, writes Alex Leach. Liam Daish set his side out in an adventurous 4-3-3 formation, deploying Luke Moo

EBBSFLEET United moved out of the Blue Square Premier relegation zone with a hard-fought victory over a plucky Altrincham at Stonebridge Road on Tuesday, writes Alex Leach.

Liam Daish set his side out in an adventurous 4-3-3 formation, deploying Luke Moore and Ricky Shakes to provide ammunition for his attacking fulcrum, Michael Gash.

Their bold approach paid off in the early exchanges and the Fleet should have taken the lead as early as the second minute; an incisive, right-flank move resulting a Shakes centre that an unmarked Moore ballooned haplessly over the bar.

Moore's blushes were spared four minutes later though as he released Gash and his cutback was clinically converted by Shakes. It was team strike fit to grace any game and Ebbsfleet's expansive play initially caused their sluggish visitors from Cheshire all sorts of problems.

However, they almost were made to pay for the defensive sloppiness Daish is anxious to eradicate after 10 minutes. Leon Crooks' poor header back never looked likely to reach goalkeeper Lance Cronin and Colin Little nipped in to loft narrowly wide with the Fleet custodian stranded.

Moore then had a headed 'goal' ruled out for offside before Gash just failed to connect with another tempting delivery from the constantly lively Shakes.

Altrincham finally awoke from their slumber on the half-hour mark, presumably roused by the incessant ear bashing from manager Graham Heathcote on the sidelines.

Debutant Ben Wilkinson forced Cronin to palm his low, 20-yard attempt around the post, while - shortly afterwards - the shot-stopper shepherded Dale Johnson out of the area. His speculative cross-cum-shot was cleared off the line by Paul McCarthy to Shaun Densmore, who drilled over.

Long and Gash drew further stops from Stuart Coburn, either side of Densmore testing Cronin at the other end, as an open encounter neared the interval.

Alty dominated the second period, yet - expertly marshalled by Darius Charles and McCarthy - the Fleet rearguard minimised their opponents' opportunities.

Another Crooks error very nearly let in second-half substitute Joe O'Neill on the hour, although the Fleet could have sealed it at the death.

Great work from Gash freed substitute George Purcell, who could only skew his first-time snapshot horribly off target.

Ebbsfleet United: Cronin 7, Ricketts 7 (Opinel 64), McCarthy 8, Crooks 6, Charles 8, Slatter 7, Martin 7, Long 7 (Yussuff 89), Shakes 8, Gash 7, Moore 7 (Purcell 90). Subs not used: Mott, West. Att: 774.

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