PUBLISHED: 11:20 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 11:27 23 August 2010
EBBSFLEET United beat the odds to sweep aside Blue Square Premier play-off pretenders Luton Town at Kenilworth Road, writes Charles Webster. This will rank as a big result in the history of little old Ebbsfleet United Football Club, said Fleet boss Lia
EBBSFLEET United beat the odds to sweep aside Blue Square Premier play-off pretenders Luton Town at Kenilworth Road, writes Charles Webster.
"This will rank as a big result in the history of little old Ebbsfleet United Football Club," said Fleet boss Liam Daish, who admitted that seeing his side win had been "nerve-wracking" on Saturday.
With the bookies offering 10-1 for a Fleet victory in the two-horse race, mighty Luton - backed by a crowd of 6,658 - were hot favourites to clinch the three points and move closer to the play-off places as they chase an immediate return to the Football League.
But, Daish had done his homework, watching Luton win 2-0 at Histon three days earlier, and he knew that - with no weak links, maximum effort and total commitment - it was possible to get something from last weekend's game.
Daish got everything he wanted - and more. His team could have taken the lead on 10 minutes when skipper Peter Holmes' shot was tipped onto an upright and away to safety by Kevin Pilkington, who was replaced three minutes later by Shane Gore following an injury incurred as a result of an innocent clash with Ricky Shakes.
The change did not disrupt Luton and, by the 28th minute, they had opened the scoring as former Fleet favourite Liam Hatch resisted challenges from Darius Charles and Leon Crooks to drill past Lance Cronin from inside the box.
A massive cheer from the home faithful greeted the goal, although they became edgy as they saw that the Fleet would not crumble.
With four minutes to half-time, the visitors were back on level terms, Magno Vieira converting Alexander Stavrinou's pass with clinical efficiency.
Vieira's 12th goal of the season was to follow before the interval as Shakes drew Gore and rolled the ball to the Brazilian, who had all the time in the world to walk it over the line.
It was not how Hatters manager Richard Money had wanted to go in for his interval cuppa and he left the field with his men with gales of jeers ringing in their ears.
It took Luton 20 minutes to recover and, fittingly, it was their brightest player, Tom Craddock, who pulled them back into proceedings with a far-past header.
The roars of relief that greeted that equaliser were silenced within two minutes when the Fleet scored again, the result of sustained pressure following a corner.
As the ball was partially cleared, first Clint Easton, then Will Salmon bombed it back into the crowded Luton box. Charles knocked it down and Moses Ashikodi blasted past Gore for what turned out to be the winner.
With more than 20 minutes remaining, Luton had plenty of time to turn the outcome around, yet they seemed happier to play across their backline than pressurise the Fleet defence.
With no ideas and a distinct lack of passion, the Money men looked bankrupt as they sought to overcome Daish's determined XI and an inspired Cronin, who pulled off three top-class saves.
Hatch did find the back of the net again, albeit the effort was ruled out for offside - much to his disgust and his subsequent complaints earned him a yellow card.
Victory lifted the Fleet two places up the table and reinforces their hopes of Blue Square Premier survival.
This was a big, big success for them, though no fluke. They were the best team by far and the bookies got it badly wrong.
As Hatch was leaving Kenilworth Road after the encounter, he told Fleet fans: "You didn't deserve to win that game." Au contraire, Mr Hatch, au contraire.
Ebbsfleet United: Cronin 8, Salmon 7, Easton 7, Crooks 7, Charles 8, Holmes 8, Stavrinou 8, Bailey 8, Shakes 7, Ashikodi 7, Vieira 8 (West 81). Subs not used: Collins, Heeroo, Ginty, Wills. Att: 6,658.
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