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Reid it and weep

PUBLISHED: 12:21 04 September 2008 | UPDATED: 10:04 23 August 2010

OXFORD United substitute Levi Reid s late leveller denied Ebbsfleet their fourth consecutive clean sheet in stoppage time at Stonebridge Road last Saturday, writes Charles Webster. The Fleet appeared to have done enough after seeing Oxford reduced to 10

OXFORD United substitute Levi Reid's late leveller denied Ebbsfleet their fourth consecutive clean sheet in stoppage time at Stonebridge Road last Saturday, writes Charles Webster.

The Fleet appeared to have done enough after seeing Oxford reduced to 10 men at the end of the first half before Michael Gash put them in front on 56 minutes.

Reid's goal though was a cruel twist for Liam Daish's home side, who were facing up to life in a post-John Akinde era. With Akinde completing the details of his big money transfer to Championship outfit Bristol City, it was left to Gash to lead the Ebbsfleet line with distinction.

Akinde's place in the starting line-up was taken by George Purcell, who spent much of the game patrolling the right side of midfield. But, after 16 minutes, he cut inside to rip the first shot of the afternoon, which keeper Jake Cole dived low to save.

The blazing heat made conditions difficult for both teams and - with Adam Murray the fulcrum of Oxford's play and Stacy Long pulling the strings for Ebbsfleet - the match settled into a fascinating encounter.

Long, Purcell and Darius Charles came close for Daish's men, although Craig Stone had their best effort when he saw his 42nd-minute shot tipped over the crossbar by a grateful Cole.

Two minutes later, Stone was involved in a pivotal moment when he was floored by Luke Foster, who was promptly sent-off by well-placed referee Mike Bull. It was Foster's second dismissal this season and earns him a four-match ban.

The red card incensed Us manager Darren Patterson, but Daish remained diplomatic afterwards and reported he did not get a good look at the incident.

The Fleet were then destabilised themselves with Stone only playing on for another six minutes before being replaced by Jamie Hand early in the second half.

Hand, once of Oxford, slipped comfortably into Stone's role and caught the eye with simple, close control that gave the Fleet stability to build from midfield.

Another man who had appeared in Oxford colours - even if only as a triallist before the start of this campaign - was Gash.

He was deemed not good enough by Patterson, though Daish was quick to swoop and bring the big centre forward to Northfleet where he has become a fans' favourite.

Before Saturday, Gash had played well for the Fleet without producing a goal for himself. However, after 56 minutes, his wait was over as he powered into the six-yard area to poke past Cole at close-range from Long's cross.

The strike ignited the Fleet - Long chipping over the crossbar from 20 yards, Purcell driving wide from a corner and Luke Moore drawing a good save from Cole.

Reid replaced Joe Burnell on 64 minutes, yet Oxford seemed resigned to defeat until time added-on. With two minutes of three played, Chris Carruthers crossed deep into the Fleet area. Reid was given licence to move unchallenged into a good position at the far post where ball-watching Fleet defenders allowed him to drill between them and Lance Cronin's legs to snatch an unlikely draw.

The clean sheet streak may have ended. Nonetheless, the Fleet came out of Saturday's fixture with a four-game unbeaten run before moving on to the second part of their Varsity double header with Tuesday's home game with Cambridge United.

Ebbsfleet: Cronin, Ricketts (Hawkins 74), McCarthy, Charles, Opinel, Stone (Hand 50), Barrett, Long, Gash, Moore, Purcell (Ibe 84). Subs not used: Mott, Appiah. Att: 1,842.

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