Article by Johnnie Lowery
An excellent defensive performance set Sutton on the way to picking up all three points at another side expected to perform well this season in Ebbsfleet United.
There was no lack of excitement in the early exchanges, with chances for both sides. First Kenny Davis had a half volley from 25 yards deflect inches wide of the post, before Ebbsfleet countered from the resulting corner with a fantastic block off the line from Charlie Clough denying Michael Cheek. Aaron Drinan had come into the side for Tommy Wright and was keen again to make his presence felt, forcing Nathan Ashmore into his first save of the game after beating the offside trap and having an effort from an angle. Drinan had another effort a minute later, though his header was comfortably stopped by Ashmore. Whilst Ebbsfleet had the majority of possession they carved out few chances compared to Sutton, Ross Lafayette the next to go close when he shot just wide from the edge of the box. It was on 33 minutes that Paul Doswell’s men took the lead, a defensive header back to the keeper short, allowing Craig Eastmond to nip in and lift it over the stranded Ashmore into the back of the net. Jamie Butler hadn’t particularly been called into action at this point but did make a great save right at the end of the half, tipping wide from a long range Jack Powell effort.
The home side had penalty appeals for a handball turned down early in the second half as they ramped up the pressure, but the first real chance fell to Drinan who ought to have hit the target after finding space from a quick throw in. For the next 15 minutes the game hit a lull, ideal for U’s defending their one goal lead. Dan Wishart nearly sparked it back into life when his freekick smacked the top of the crossbar, but the ball bounced up and over rather than in. With time running out Sutton were still creating the better chances, substitute Tom Bolarinwa heading inches wide from a Wishart cross as Paul Doswell’s men looked to break. Ebbsfleet did start to create some chances, Corey Whitely seeing an effort deflected just wide, but the performances of all the back four and holding midfielders kept the Fleet largely at bay. There was time for one last chance deep into stoppage time but Chris Bush could only put his header wide.