There are occasions when you have to concede that the opposition were just too good for you on the day and this game was such a case as the National League South leaders continued their unbeaten start to the campaign with an accomplished display. The Peacocks had a few brief moments when they threatened the home goal but overall, they seldom looked capable of getting some reward from the first ever contest between the sides.
My tortuous journey up to Kent courtesy of the M25 car park set the tone for an afternoon which the travelling Town support will not want to dwell on. With Town restoring the centre half trio of Nick Grimes, Dan Ball and Jake Wannell to the side after being rested in midweek for the county cup tie, the visitors were up against it from the start at an impressive Kuflink Stadium. Inside the first minute, a Lee Lucas pass fell short, allowing Dominic Poleon to canter away and find Toby Edser whose shot was blocked for the opening corner. Rakish Bingham stabbed wide of the target following a Luke O’Neill cross as the early pressure was maintained before Jack Bycroft was forced into action, out well to block Bingham’s shot after Greg Cundle’s first effort had deflected to him.
The visitors then had their best chance of the game after 10 minutes. Lloyd James’ pass found Joe Budd in space inside the box, but the Town man could not keep his left-footed strike down and it sailed over. The importance of taking chances at this level was underlined to the Peacocks when Ebbsfleet took the lead on 17 minutes and after their slick passing and pacy breaks it sadly felt only a matter of time when they would. Christian N’Guessan delivered a cross from the left, Poleon helped it on its way with a backheel and Cundle was on hand to rifle his finish beyond the reach of Bycroft.
A James cross was too high for Foulston in a rare Town foray, but the hosts always looked a class above as they consistently made inroads into the final third. Bingham’s shot was blocked, and his follow-up went wide before yet another break involving Cundle and Edser gave Bingham an opportunity which the Town defence again managed to obstruct. A difficult afternoon then became even more so just past the half hour when Wannell went down with a nasty-looking ankle injury after the ball had hit him, the Town centre half having to be helped off and Zac Smith coming on to replace.
The remainder of the half saw the home side continue to pepper the Town box. Given Ebbsfleet’s full-time status, there is time to perfect corner kick routines on the training ground and from one such set piece they again came close. Craig Tanner’s delivery was dummied by two Fleet players and fell to Bingham, his strike was blocked, and Haydn Hollis fired the loose ball wide. The speedy Omari Sterling-James then outpaced the Peacocks defence to send in a cross from the byeline which just failed to find Poleon and Bycroft clawed down a Tanner effort to gather at the second attempt following a free kick from Sterling-James who was part of the Kidderminster Harriers side which played West Ham in last season’s FA Cup.
The Ebbsfleet No 7 was proving a thorn in Town’s side, waltzing down the right to find Bingham in the middle who poked the ball over and then getting the better of Foulston to drive a shot off the far post. O’Neill cut inside to fire an effort over before Town had their only other opening of the half, a James free kick from the right being cleared as far as Lucas who planted his shot onto the roof of the terrace. Hopes of keeping the deficit to a single goal at the break were then dashed on the 45 minute mark when Bingham broke down the right and it was all too easy for Poleon to slot in at the far post for a 2-0 advantage.
A quiet start to the second half soon changed nine minutes in, Edser prompting an attack which saw Hollis’ pass allowing him to carve his way into the area and drill a third goal beyond Bycroft into the right-hand corner. Dylan Morgan took over from Nick McCootie on the hour, but the complexion of the game stayed unchanged. Bycroft parried Poleon’s shot at his near post but was unable to prevent Ebbsfleet from notching their fourth goal on 64 minutes. Hollis found Edser who in turn picked out Bingham in the box and he held off the defence to steer home.
There was no respite when the home side made substitutions. Newcomer Shaq Coulthirst had a shot blocked seconds after entering the fray before releasing Edser who tucked his finish into the corner of the net on 71 minutes for his second goal of the match and Ebbsfleet’s fifth. Morgan was unable to connect with Smith’s cross at the other end, but it was more about stopping the hosts from adding to their tally as the game entered its final ten minutes. Bycroft was off his line quickly to collect ahead of the oncoming Tanner and Edser slipped a pass through for Coulthirst whose strike was held by the Peacocks’ keeper before Town survived a Tanner corner which fell to Poleon at the far post, his shot being blocked and then cleared by James.
Fleet keeper Mark Cousins had been an onlooker for the game but looked as though he may need to participate in the dying stages, only for Hollis to boot clear a Lucas cross into to the middle. Thankfully, there was little stoppage time to endure, leaving Town to reflect on what had been a wake-up call at this level. True they had not come up yet against the quality of an Ebbsfleet side with resources at their disposal and looking every inch the champions-elect but few questions had been asked of the home side in the final third and with a big FA Cup tie at National League Yeovil looming, Town know they will need to pose a greater threat if they wish to progress.
Taunton: Jack Bycroft, Joe Budd, Jay Foulston, Nick Grimes (captain), Dan Ball, Jake Wannell (Zac Smith 31), Ollie Chamberlain, Lloyd James, Nick McCootie (Dylan Morgan 60), Dave Sims-Burgess (Nat Jarvis 71). Unused subs: Ross Stearn, Ross Staley
Ebbsfleet: Mark Cousins, Luke O’Neill (Ben Chapman 74), Omari Sterling-James (Darren McQueen 62), Christian N’Guessan, Rakish Bingham (Shaq Coulthirst 69), Craig Tanner, Dominic Poleon, Greg Cundle, Toby Edser, Chris Solly, Haydn Hollis. Unused subs: Sido Jombati, Franklin Domi
Referee: Andrew Humphries (Northampton)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Louis Dawson (Ipswich)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Jeffrey Aldous (Shefford)
” We stuck at our task to a degree, I thought some of our defending at times was a little bit to be questioned…….” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights can be seen courtesy of Ebbsfleet United FCtv HERE
Mind In Somerset MOM