ONLY A STONES THROW AWAY FROM THE THAMES THE FLOODGATES OPENED AGAINST THE SPITFIRES IN THE FIRST HALF
An early strike from Michael Cheek was followed up by goals from Danny Kedwell and Corey Whitely to give Ebbsfleet a three goal before the half, which they wouldn’t surrender.
Ben Strevens was forced into three changes before the match. Paul McCallum’s groin strain meant the Spitfires’ top scorer was stricken to the bench whilst Michael Green’s suspension and Danny Holland’s unavailability kept them away from the squad.
This presented an opportunity for Jack McKnight to make his first start for Eastleigh since joining from Basingstoke Town.
Only two minutes in and Ebbsfleet’s Cheek was gifted an early opener. An awkward bounce meant Josh Hare’s pass back to the ‘keeper was under powered and allowed the striker through to prod the home side in front.
The Spitfires dusted themselves off and bounced straight back into attack. McKnight’s clever flick through to Cav Miley was weighted to perfection for the midfielder, turned left-back for this game, to meet inside the box, but the Jersey-born players pull back agonisingly couldn’t find an Eastleigh player to steer the ball home.
However, the Fleet could manage to find their player in the opposition box when it mattered. Their top scorer Kedwell netted his 12th of the campaign when former Spitfires player Jack Payne linked up with Myles Weston to find Kedwell six yards out and the striker duly finished with only 12 minutes gone.
With the local wind turbines peeping over the old main stand at the Kuflink Stadium, the whirlwind first half continued as Eastleigh could have had a goal of their own. Joey Jones’ through ball was met in stride by Ben Williamson, whose shot from the edge of the area looked destined for the bottom left corner, but for the effort to just curl onto the post and deflect away.
With the game stretched Kedwell set through Whitely for surely Ebbsfleet’s third, but for the heroics of Luke Southwood. The ‘keeper bravely leapt at the attacker’s feet to suffocate the ball away from him and his goal.
The Fleet kept coming back with attacks and eventually broke down the Spitfires again with a perfectly guided ball from Payne. The midfielder curled his lofted pass into the path of Whitely, whose first-time finish from inside the box rolled into the net.
The second half started and Payne could have netted a goal for himself against his former side. His slide in the six-yard box just evaded Cheek’s low driven cross from the left and the ball dribbled out of play.
As Whitely wildly fired over on the left Strevens made an attack minded change. Chris Zebroski was introduced in place of Andrew Boyce and the Spitfires instantly went on the attack. Miley and Mark Yeates combined down the left before the Irishman cut inside onto his right foot but his effort swirled wide.
The home side quickly resettled into their dominant role as the hour mark approached when Cheek’s cheeky flick set him through down the left, but another low driven cross of his couldn’t be met by a team-mate in the box. This time because Miley’s slide helped put off Whitely’s effort.
Another flick from Cheek almost saw the winger grab his second of the game as he set himself through. However, his skewed strike from the left of the area just missed the far post.
In reaction Strevens introduced more fire power into the game in the form of McCallum and Ollie Dennett, however it did little to halt the Ebbsfleet attack.
Weston’s pace took him away from Hare down the left and another low driven cross for the hosts was waisted as Whitely fired his effort in front of net high and wide from close range.
The scoreline didn’t deter the Spitfires for pushing their way back into the game. Yeates’ corner was met by an unmarked Jones at the back post, but unfortunately the midfielder’s header hit the wrong part of the net as the ball nestled on top of the goal after being headed over.
With only five minutes to go a rare highlight of the match occurred for the Spitfires and it wasn’t a goal, in fact it happened at the other end of the pitch.
With the ball squared to Adams in front of an empty net for Ebbsfleet’s fourth, Southwood extraordinarily dived across the face of goal to deny the midfielder.
The victory for Ebbsfleet, their fifth win in a row at home, means they leapfrog Eastleigh in the National League up to ninth as the Spitfires slip to tenth.
It’s a disappointing end to the year for the side, who can put it right on New Years Day at home to Havant & Waterlooville.