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No arch in March for Fleet

PUBLISHED: 11:35 26 March 2009 | UPDATED: 10:34 23 August 2010

IT wasn t to be, lamented Liam Daish as Ebbsfleet United came up short in their quest for back-to-back FA Trophy final appearances by being beaten by Stevenage Borough at Stonebridge Road on Saturday. The Fleet - a goal behind from the first leg at Br

IT wasn't to be," lamented Liam Daish as Ebbsfleet United came up short in their quest for back-to-back FA Trophy final appearances by being beaten by Stevenage Borough at Stonebridge Road on Saturday.

The Fleet - a goal behind from the first leg at Broadhall Way last week - fought hard to get back into the tie, but succumbed to a goal late into time added-on at the end of this game.

The start of the match was held up for 10 minutes as 3,008 enjoyed spring sunshine to keep the turnstiles ticking over for an encounter that could have sent Ebbsfleet back to Wembley's distinctive arch for a second successive year.

Daish made two changes from the side that had come back from 2-0 down to lose 3-2 in Hertfordshire the previous Saturday, moving Danny Slatter to the bench and compensating for the long-term loss of Neil Barrett, who suffered serious facial injuries in the first meeting. Ricky Shakes and James Smith filled the breach as Daish set out to get his team on level terms.

It was an edgy start for both outfits and it fell to Lee Boylan to get away the first shot, from an Andy Drury corner, which drew a save from Lance Cronin in the 18th minute.

Ebbsfleet worked hard to carve out openings in an absorbing first half, yet rarely managed to create too many problems for Borough keeper Chris Day.

Stevenage soaked up the pressure, without showing too much enterprise, although they came out of their shell at the opening of the second period with a Drury drive wide of a post.

Sacha Opinel's intriguing personal battle with Drury came to an end after 54 minutes when the former Fleet midfielder took a knock and was replaced by defender Mark Albrighton.

That coincided with a resurgence in Ebbsfleet and Luke Moore, Mark Ricketts and Shakes all had opportunities to square the match.

After an hour Michael Gash and Giuseppe Sole linked well on the left flank before Moore drilled wide of an upright. Even defender Leon Crooks had an unsuccessful goal attempt after finding himself in the penalty area from a Stacy Long free kick.

Long then forced Day into the save of the afternoon after Gash won the ball off of Albrighton and crossed. The delivery deflected off of substitute Louis Cumbers and Long blasted goalwards only for Day to stretch out a palm and turn his effort away.

On 75 minutes, it was Long threatening again from six yards, only for Day's leap to keep the Fleet at bay once more. It prove to be their last significant move of this last-four clash as Stevenage shut up shop and played out time.

Nonetheless, Stevenage were not finished at the other end and, in time added-on at the end of 90 minutes, substitute Peter Vincenti was picked out on the right wing by a long diagonal pass.

Vincenti got behind the tiring Opinel, cut inside and drilled past Cronin in some style to ensure Borough will be at Wembley on May 9.

Stevenage have gone on a long unbeaten run since being beaten 3-0 by the Fleet in early December and this was the first time that Borough had won at Stonebridge Road in three attempts this season. This result was by far the most significant for everybody involved.

Ebbsfleet United: Cronin 7, Crooks 7, Smith 7, Charles 7, Opinel 7, Ricketts 7, Shakes 7 (Purcell 82), Long 8, Moore 7, Gash 7, Sole 7 (Cumbers 66). Subs not used: Mott, Slatter, Stevens. Att: 3,008.

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