Saturday, 17 May 2008

When the Fleet go Sailing in!!

None of the difficulties of last year in getting a ticket for this one - even though Ebbsfleet managed to sell 22,000. I went along with Diane, Andrew and Steve and they all thoroughly enjoyed the occasion. Ebbsfleet had asked all their fans to wear red shirts so I wore my Charlton shirt and met quite a few Addicks around the ground (well, I reckon it's the nearest we'll ever get to being there!) The ground was still impressive, even seeing it for the second time. And although it was less than half full for the game, the fact that all the fans were supporters of the two clubs made for a great atmosphere.

So, what about the game. Well, it was much better than the FA Cup Final I saw last year, but that wouldn't be difficult! Torquay started the better but Ebbsfleet gradually took control, getting a penalty 5 minutes before half-time. Up stepped ex-Torquay striker McGhee for the spot-kick was saved. The Torquay fans loved it as he didn't exactly hit it off down there. I must admit to thinking how can a player possibly recover from such an incident. But recover he did. Shortly afterwards Akinde chased a lost cause into the corner, won possession and centred for, yes, you guessed it, McGhee to score - from zero to hero in three minutes!

The second half was end to end with the closest effort being Akinde hitting the post. The last 10 minutes lasted an age for the Fleet fans, but eventually the whistle went and the celebrations began. And they were celebrations. The players were absolutely delighted and showed it - it was a pleasure to witness. And a great way to end the season. A journey that stretched from Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, North Wales, Staffordshire, Cambridgeshire, Kent and Hamphire through to Wembley was over. And I will miss it - no aggro over tickets, exciting matches and the game played in the proper spirit. It successfully took my mind off a disappointing Charlton season.

Next year might be the FA Vase although weddings of relatives may mean, because of date clashes, that it will be put off for another season - which means I'll be able to see more of Charlton - oh joy!!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Aldershot Town 1 Ebbsfleet United 1

A backs to the wall performance gave Ebbsfleet a 4-2 aggregate win and the opportunity of a trip to Wembley. Aldershot dominated this match but nervous finishing in the first half and lack of creativity in the second were to cost them dear.

In an exciting game the Shots began at a pace and created quite a few openings the best falling to their right winger who hit his shot against Cronin's legs. After about an hour Aldershot took the lead and from then on it was a case of the Fleet holding on in a sort of 9-1-1 formation. But hold on they did even avoiding the threat of Bull, the Aldershot keeper, arriving in their penalty area for a corner kick and nearly scoring an empty netter. Ebbsfleet did make a break 3 minutes into injury time with Long's shot rebounding to an Ebbsfleet forward for the crucial goal.

Cue the celebrations. The army from Kent, who I think never really believed they could win this tie, went mad with Opinek the left back co-ordinating the party. Over the two legs I think Ebbsfleet were the worthy winners if only for their sheer doggedness. They face Torquay in the final, which will be a tough proposition.

A word for Aldershot. Even though they must have been bitterly disappointed about the result they were very gracious in defeat. I, for one, will be glad to see them back in the league next season after an absence of 16 years (especially as I will be able to count them in my quest to do the 92!)

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Ebbsleet United 3 Aldershot Town 1

This was a bit of an epic day for me and my brother, Paul, who accompanied me to this match. The kick off was brought forward to 12.00 to avoid possible trouble with the Aldershot fans. It occurred to me, then, that it would be possible to see the Ebbsfleet match, hop on the train and make it to The Valley for a 3pm kick off. And that is what we did, only missing 10 minutes of the Charlton game because of a cancelled train (although it would have been better to have missed all 90 minutes!) So, a first for me - two games in one day.

Let's talk about Ebbsfleet though. They had been awarded the team of the round for their defeat of Burton, but Aldershot would be a different proposition, surely? Ebbsfleet, however, got at them from the start and, courtesy of two deserved penalties were comfortably 2-0 ahead by half-time. The home crowd were buzzing - maybe Wembley was a real possibility. A healthy crowd of over 2,000 watched the game, including a German TV company, who were filming because of the internet purchase of Ebbsfleet by I think we were filmed, which is a bit embarrassing as I no longer have an Equity card!

The second half was a more even affair with a goal each meaning that 'The Fleet' take a two goal advantage to Hampshire. Who will prevail? Aldershot have already beaten Ebbsleet 2-0 at the Recreation Ground earlier this year so I would not bet against this going all the way to penalties. That would be a cruel way to decide matters.

Friday, 29 February 2008

Ebbsleet United 1 Burton Albion 0

It took nearly 3 and a half hours but finally a goal was scored in this tie. 5 minutes from the end of extra time Stacy Long (ex-Charlton, of course) hit a speculative shot at goal which squimed under the body of Saul Deeney into the net. It meant there wouldn't be penalties (which I reckoned would have ended 0-0 anyway!) and aslo means I get to visit Northfleet again in a bit less of a hurry - leaving a conference at 4.00 to arrive by 7.30 and then getting into my hotel bed at about 2.30 did not do a lot for my levels of concentration on Wednesday!

I watched the game with my brother who lives nearby and we found it all quite entertaining. I think he was a bit surprised by the standard of the football (apart from the finishing that is!) Being a Charlton fan I'm not surprised he was impressed. The ground reminded me of a smaller version of The Valley as it was in the 1970s. It is pretty ramshackle but decked out in red and listening to those lovely north Kent accents made me quite nostalgic. It will be good to go there again in more leisurely circumstances.

It is a pity to leave Burton behind. having seen them 6 times they are obviously a club who can go places. I just wonder if they have reached their potential for the moment and need to do something to attract bigger crowds and then go full time. Keeping Nigel Clough around will be the key. I will predict that the right back, Brayford, will be playing league football within 2 years - all I need to remember now is to look back on here and check if I was right.

Prediction goes wrong!

Well, happily I am not off to Devon and the only chance of seeing Torquay is now at Wembley. I can't say I'm sorry about that as I am already visiting Plymouth in April to watch the mighty Addicks. Oh yes, the draw means a trip to Aldershot, currently riding high at the top of the Blue Square Premier, the match to be played over two legs (it's the nearest I'll ever get to watching Champions League football!) If Aldershot manage to get promoted it will also mean I collect a new league ground by default.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Burton Albion 0 Ebbsfleet 0

Well, I guess it was inevitable. Having gone all the way to Wembley last year and most of the way this year, this was my first 0-0 draw. And the game was as bad as a goalless match could be.

I am recovering from neck ache today as the beautiful game was turned into an aerial ping pong competition. Chances were few and far between, although both sides did hit the wood work. The windy conditions didn't help the two teams and a draw seemed inevitable from the moment Burton hit the post in the 2nd minute - especially as I am now faced with a sprint down to Kent on Tuesday and missing part of the Conference I am attending. I will get a chance to see my brother which will be good.

Writing this before the draw I know that York, Aldershot and Torquay are the other semi-finalists so I will happily predict a trek down to Devon in my mystic Meg moment!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Histon 0 Burton Albion 1

The march of the Brewers towards Wembley continues. This was what you would call a 'gutsy' performance. Clare put Burton in the lead after 10 minutes and for the other 80 it became, increasingly, one way traffic. I think everyone knew that, if Histon did score they would run out easy winners. However, on a quagmire of a pitch in heavy rain they could not get the ball in the net.

So, it's Burton v Ebbsfleet in what, for many Brewers fans, seems to be a chance to right some wrongs over various results that have gone the way of the Kent based team in the last few matches. My only wish is for a postive result as the prospect of a midweek dash down to Gravesend for the replay does not fill me with joy.