Controversial decisions go Ebbsfleet's way as Slough Town lose at home

Slough Town 1, Ebbsfleet United 3

Slough’s joint boss Jon Underwood admits that at times on Saturday it felt like the Rebels were up against a very good Ebbsfleet United side as well as the referee.

In a game littered with controversial decisions, the home side were deservedly beaten 3-1 by promotion hopefuls Ebbsfleet, but the scoreline doesn’t adequately tell the full story of a very competitive game.

Fleet clinically took the chances which came their way and were aided by some generous decisions from the match officials while Slough can perhaps count themselves a little unfortunate they didn’t take something from a game in which they matched their visitors for long spells.

The tale of the match is really one of two controversial and debatable decisions, one which presented Fleet with a penalty late in the first half to make it 1-1, and the second, which saw referee Joel Mannix fail to point to the spot after Rebels striker Ben Harris appeared to be hauled to the floor in the area with the scores still level.

Fleet took maximum advantage of Mannix’s generosity, and promptly scored a second through the excellent Lee Martin minutes later.

Those key moments turned the tide of a game which looked like it might go Slough’s way when Harris took full advantage of a horrendous blunder by Fleet keeper Josh Gould. The keeper misjudged the flight of a long ball upfield, allowing it to bounce over his head, and Harris was quickly onto it to tap the ball into an empty net in the 17th minute.

A second goal could have followed for the home side with Aaron Kuhl sending a low shot inches wide of the post on the half-hour. However, Fleet were also working the Slough defence, and Rakish Bingham volleyed narrowly over from Dominic Poleon’s cushioned header midway through the half.

They levelled in the 39th minute when Lee Martin ran onto a ball over the top, tangled with Mark Nisbet in what looked a clumsy coming together of two players rather than a malicious foul. But Mannix saw things differently, pointing to the spot from which Bingham sent Jonathan North the wrong way to even up the scores.

The knife remained on a knife edge for much of the second half, with Slough carving out a couple of presentable chances. The best of which fell to Harris who sliced badly wide from just inside the six-yard box. At the other end Lee Martin was similarly off-target when he fired over on the run after being picked out by Greg Cundle.

However, momentum swung the visitors way in the 68th minute when Harris appeared to be pulled down in the area as he sought to get a shot off on goal. The Rebels’ bench assumed Mannix would even up the penalty count but, to the astonishment of pretty much everyone inside Arbour Park, he waved play on, and a furious Neil Baker was still chuntering to the referee’s assistant a couple of minutes later when Lee Martin fired Ebbsfleet in front.

Again, there was an element of fortune in the way the ball bounced of a Slough foot straight into the path of Martin, but there was nothing lucky about the finish as he opened his body and took his time before lashing the ball beyond North.

Slough continued to press but, as has been the problem all season, they lacked composure in the final third. Their best chance arrived when Joe Lawal broke free down the left side of the Fleet area, but he failed to pick out an unmarked Tom Derry and a really good chance went begging.

Now playing with a sense of authority, Fleet rounded off the scoring with a third in the 82nd minute. The Rebels marking was lax at best as Lee Martin crossed for Joe Martin to sweep the ball home unopposed.

The match was now over, but Gould almost gifted Slough a second in the closing stages, when he allowed Sefa Kahraman's back pass to roll over his foot and towards goal, but unfortunately for the hosts it bounced off the post and away to safety.

It just about summed up another luckless afternoon for Slough who have picked up just two points from their last six matches. It leaves them 19th in the table ahead of Saturday’s trip to Billericay Town, one of only two sides now below them in National League South.

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