DEFENDERS EARN THEIR STRIPES IN STALEMATE
VERDICT: Hardly a classic but there was very little between the two sides and a point apiece reward for strong defensive displays – although Ebbsfleet will probably be the happier
SOMETIMES you’ve got to show a little bit of love to the defenders in the National League.
Football can’t always be a thrill-a-minute and, unfortunately, this one won’t be taking up too much time on the end of season DVDs.
A classic it wasn’t, but that was because the defenders on both sides did the business.
Ebbsfleet United boss Daryl McMahon called for his side to show some cojones at highflying Sutton United after a limp display at home to Torquay United in midweek.
They certainly did that and it had McMahon hailing the way his side got back to basics.
“It was a very good, committed performance,” McMahon said. “It’s what we asked for really. We played Sutton two years ago in my first season in charge in a preseason friendly, and last pre-season, and we got bullied both times to be honest – we didn’t today.
“They were probably a little bit surprised at the way we set up and went about our business but I thought we were big, we were strong. You have to be in this division.
“Tuesday night (against Torquay) the technical side of our performance wasn’t good enough. It got bitty and frustrating. Today we’ve seen a committed performance and more what we’re about.
“Sutton are a good side. They’ve been a good side for many years now, especially the last two or three. They’re difficult to play against but we handled it well.”
Had Fleet’s Luke Coulson got more power on his poke at keeper Jamie Butler inside a minute, then the entertainment may have been very different. England C defender Louis John had good chances in the second-half for Sutton, too, but it just wouldn’t fall anyone’s way.
Aside from feeling his side should have been awarded a late penalty when Kieron Cadogan went over in the box, Sutton manager Paul Doswell had few complaints.
Fleet countered the U’s by making sure they were as solid as possible and McMahon made two changes to his backline from Tuesday.
Malta international Sam Magri came in at right-back, Chris Bush shifted to left-back and Yado Mambo slotted into the heart of the defence alongside Kenny Clark.
Mambo literally put his body on the line to hack Kenny Davis’ shot clear on 68 minutes when the ball fell to the midfielder on the edge of the box with keeper Nathan Ashmore out of position.
Clark made some crucial blocks, including from Adam Coombes when the substitute tried to turn in at the near post near the end.
When Tommy Wright got in behind before that, Clark mancentre-halves, aged to stay the right side of the law to nip at the fleetfooted attacker’s heels and get back to make a sliding tackle.
Doswell thought the referee could have intervened, but he couldn’t be happier with the season the U’s are having.
Sitting fourth in the league after 18 games, he believes they are showing they belong in Non-League’s top-flight.
“Teams are regularly talking about us now as being a threat or having a physical threat,” Doswell said.
“But we’re not just a physical side, we can mix our game up very well.
“So credit to Daryl because they’ve gone with four big two holding midfield players, and I thought they defended manfully – as we did. Our back four was good.
“And sometimes, we might not like it, you’ve got to praise defensive games as well. Both teams defensively did well.
“I felt we were on top, but without creating that unbelievable chance where we go, ‘Should have scored’. There were a couple of controversial bits for me, but I can’t look at it and think one team deserved it more than the other.”