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Fleet Crawl into Shield semi-finals

PUBLISHED: 14:51 19 March 2009 | UPDATED: 10:33 23 August 2010

JAMES Smith and Danny Slatter scored to take Ebbsfleet United through to a Setanta Shield semi-final clash with Forest Green Rovers as the Fleet came from behind to beat Crawley, writes Charles Webster. Ebbsfleet now face Forest Green at Stonebridge Road

JAMES Smith and Danny Slatter scored to take Ebbsfleet United through to a Setanta Shield semi-final clash with Forest Green Rovers as the Fleet came from behind to beat Crawley, writes Charles Webster.

Ebbsfleet now face Forest Green at Stonebridge Road next Thursday for a place in the final where they would meet either Barrow or AFC Telford.

Slatter was the only survivor from the Fleet's starting line-up at Stevenage on Saturday as Liam Daish made 10 changes.

In the opposition dugout, Steve Evans changed just four of the personnel from the Crawley XI that shared the points in a goalless draw with Rushden & Diamonds, but his more experienced side were ultimately outplayed by Daish's impressive youngsters.

Deputising for Lance Cronin, Sam Mott made some timely interventions in a first half that was shaded by Crawley. Mott twice saved at the feet of Michael Malcolm, but the Sussex side made their breakthrough after half an hour when Malcolm's trickery in the box left the Fleet defence bemused and Lewis Killeen was able to scramble the ball home from six yards.

Nine minutes later Mott denied Malcolm with a fingertip save to send the Fleet into the interval a goal in arrears but, after the break, it was the visitors who took control.

Louis Cumbers, on loan from Gillingham, had a promising debut in Fleet colours and was narrowly off-target with a firm shot following a good run on 49 minutes, and followed this with a shot which dipped over the crossbar.

With Paul McCarthy holding Malcolm in check, the Fleet youngsters pressed forward and, on 67 minutes, a corner from the impressive Michael West was met at the far post by a majestic header from Smith that rocketed past Simon Rayner in the home goal.

Evans went for broke by throwing striker Jamie Cook into the mix on 79 minutes, but it was the Fleet who claimed the spoils with the winning goal two minutes from time.

George Purcell drilled a ball across the Crawley area and Slatter came in on the blindside to score with a low header at the far post.

Even the prospect of free admission could only draw 844 to Broadfield, and some cynics predicted that this was a game neither side wanted to win.

Victory only adds to Ebbsfleet's fixture congestion, but it is clear from the passion and commitment of his players that this is a trophy Daish takes seriously and wants to put in the Stonebridge Road trophy cabinet at the end of the season.

Ebbsfleet United: Mott 8, Pooley 7, McCarthy 8, Smith 7, Henry 7, Shakes 7, West 8, Slatter 8, Purcell 6, Cumbers 7, Judge 6 (Cole 65). Subs not used: Callender, Turbine, Springett. Att: 844.

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