Ebbsfleet 4 St Albans 0

Ebbsfleet 4 St Albans 0 (09/04/2011)

Ebbsfleet’s Stonebridge Road is a ground I’ve fancied going to for some time. It may be non-league, but it’s substantial enough to have a league ground feel to it, albeit one from a couple of decades ago, before all-seater requirements changed the look of the “typical” lower division ground forever.

One concession is the conversion of the covered end to a seated area. Once a pretty large, if shallow terrace, this is now replaced with a “temporary” stand on top of the old terracing, with six rows of seats. They are raised above the terrace, rather than just bolted on, so the view it actually decent enough.”The Fleet” is picked out in large letters at the back of this terrace, with a large gap between this wall and the back row of seats.

The opposite end is open, and curiously not parallel to the goal line. It’d be a sizeable terrace by lower division standards, giving a fine view of the play, particularly on a sunny day like this one.

One side is a covered terrace, not quite spanning the whole length of the pitch. It’s deep, but shallow enough to imagine it wouldn’t offer the best view in a full house to anyone under 6′ tall. While not quite in a state of disrepair, the rust and discolouration to make it look as if the last time it was maintained, the workmen were paid by the Schilling.

Opposite is the charming wooden main stand. Bright red plastic seats and a liberal coating of white paint inside give this stand a bright and airy look, even if the nine supporting pillars on a stand only 80 yards long hint at why such stands aren’t built any more. Rather like an ageing film star, it’s best not viewed up too close. The white paint is flaking and the mismatching corrugated iron roof sheeting doesn’t look so appealing from within the stand. The seats are also bolted onto wooden boards which would have once been rudimentary bench seating. As you naturally sit further forward than you would if sat on a bench, it limits legroom to a degree that being able to remove your own feet would be beneficial. Despite all that, the stand, and the ground as a whole, is a gem. You can understand why Ebbsfleet are looking to move, and why they don’t biuld grounds like Stonebridge Road any more, but you do wish there were more like it about.

St Albans turned up at promotion-chasing Ebbsfleet needing a win, and possibly a couple of snookers, to avoid being relegated by 5pm. I’d seen them draw with league leaders Braintree a month earlier, and were unlucky to only draw that day. Today was a rather different story. They were never truly in the game. They kept their shape well enough, but were non-existent as a threat going forward. After a slow start in terms of creating chances, Ebbsfleet got closer and closer.

The breakthrough came in the 26 minute. A cross from the left was met by the head of Calum Willock, who glanced the ball across the keeper into the far corner. A second wasn’t long in coming. A cut-back in the area wasn’t dealt with at all, allowing Ranbir Marwa to stab the ball in at the second attempt.

With it being do-or-die for St Albans, they came out in the second half giving it everything they had. Unfortunately, that didn’t amount to much. They were more solid, but again the St Albans team would still have trouble recognising the Ebbsfleet goalkeeping, as they rarely got with 50 yards of him.

The game was up for St Albans with 20 minutes left. Slack defending allowed Michael West to break clear and seal the win by slipping the ball under the outrushing keeper.

A final emphatic nail was hammered into the coffin of St Albans’ 2010/11 season six minutes from time. Sub Scott Ginty found himself with a ridiculous amount of room on the corner of the six yard box. A weak challenge from the goalkeeper saw a surprised looking Ginty presented with an empty net tap-in from about a yard out. He didn’t miss it, even if my camera annoyingly did.

A fine afternoon all-round (unless you were a St Albans fan, and to be honest I didn’t see too many of them about the place) capped off by seeing news of a 90th winner for Reading at Nottingham Forest.

Prior to the match, I also had a quick look at Dartford’s Princes Park, just a 10 minute drive away. They were playing Woking today so no chance of getting a proper look inside, but I did get a peek through a gap in the gate. It looks an interesting new ground. One that I’ll have to go out and see some time.

Click here for full gallery (55 pics)

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