Vanarama South Play Off Semi Final Second Leg

Ebbsfleet United v Whitehawk

Sunday 8 May 2016

Whitehawk’s season came to a cruel end after a penalty shoot-out defeat against Ebbsfleet United in the play-offs of the National League South.

Nathan Ashmore saved two spot kicks for Fleet, who will face Maidstone United in the final.

Goals from Nick Arnold and Danny Mills had given the Hawks a 2-1 win in normal time, levelling the tie at 3-3.

A goalless extra time period meant penalties, and misses from Liam Graham, Sam Rents and then Jake Robinson mean that Whitehawk’s eventful season has come to an abrupt end.

“There was not a massive difference between the sides over the two legs,” said manager Pablo Asensio said after the game. “Both teams worked hard, and it was clear that both teams wanted a place in the final.

“We played a good tactical game today, and it worked with a goal in the first five minutes.

“We couldn’t maintain the tempo, and then they scored from a set-piece. From then, we reorganised and went back to our plan and again were rewarded with a goal.

“We tried to win the game, but without taking silly risks. We made our changes, but it wasn’t enough to win the game overall.”

Whitehawk got off to the perfect start, taking the lead just five minutes in. David Martin’s cross from the left was too high for Danny Mills, but instead found Nick Arnold at the far post whose emphatic volley back across goal gave Nathan Ashmore no chance.

Ebbsfleet bounced back, and thought they drew themselves level with twenty minutes on the clock, but the whistle of Anthony Serrano had already blown for a foul before Kenny Clark headed in Sam Deering’s free kick.

However, the hosts did equalise minutes later – but it wasn’t without its controversy. Deering’s corner floated over to the back post – and with Craig Ross being held back – Clark headed in from close range. It was a clear foul on the Hawks keeper, but referee Serrano allowed the goal to stand.

Ross then made amends by making a great save from point blank range to deny Matt Godden on the half hour mark, before the Hawks had a half-chance to regain their lead and draw level on aggregate.

Arnaud Mendy picked out Martin inside the area, but his goal-bound header was turned around the post by a great diving save from Ashmore.

Just like the first half, the Hawks produced a fast start, and got their just rewards five minutes into the second period. Martin refused to give up closing down Dean Pooley, and won possession before lifting the ball to the back post, where Mills rose highest to head the ball away from Ashmore and into the net.

The Hawks came close to getting the goal that would put them ahead on aggregate with twenty-five minutes to go. Rents played a good ball across to the near post, where Robinson got to the ball before Ashmore, but he stabbed wide of the near post.

Jordan Parkes came on midway through the second period for Fleet, and he almost had the desired impact when he played an inviting ball through to Godden, but Ross did well to save his attempted lob.

However, it was the Hawks who looked most likely to get the winner, and almost did in dramatic style. A corner was punched away by Ashmore, but only as far as Torres on the edge of the area. The midfielder thumped the ball first time, and beat Ashmore, but only to come back off the angle of post and bar.

With no further score, extra time was needed. The Hawks almost went ahead on aggregate early on. Martin picked the ball up on the left, and cut inside, but after beating two defenders saw his effort saved by the advancing Ashmore.

Whitehawk continued to press going forward in the second period, with Arnold’s corner picking out Mills, but his glancing header just wide of the post. However, the Hawks were nearly the masters of their own downfall. Possession was lost in midfield, and a ball through put through Kedwell, but Ross came out well to save with just five minutes to go.

The fate of a season ended in a penalty shoot-out. After Martin and Parkes converted, Liam Graham saw his effort come back off the post. Rents then had his effort well saved by Ashmore to give Fleet the advantage. Ross then saved well from Lewis, but only for Ashmore to save again, this time from Robinson, to see his side win 3-2 on penalties.

Fleet: Ashmore, Pooley (Parkes 66), Howe, Lewis, Acheampong, Clark, Deering (Bonner 90), Rance, Kedwell, Godden, Cook (Sheringham 90). Subs: Shields, Miles (GK). Bookings: Deering, Rance.

Hawks: Ross, Sessegnon, Rents, M’Boungou, Rose (Graham 82), Mendy (Ijaha 66), Arnold, Torres ©, Robinson, Mills (Gotta 111), Martin. Subs: Gargan, Fraser. Bookings: Ross, Robinson, Rose, Sessegnon, Martin.

Shots: EBU 8-14 WHK, Shots On Target: EBU 4-5 WHK, Corners: EBU 5-12 WHK, Fouls Committed: EBU 19-17 WHK, Offside: EBU 5-4 WHK, Bookings: EBU 1-5 WHK, Red Cards: EBU 0-0 WHK.

Attendance: 1, 932

Goals: Clark 24’; Arnold 5’, Mills 51’.

Man of the Match: Chris Sessegnon (Whitehawk)

Referee: Anthony Serrano

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