Some new faces came in as we’re always looking to make progress. Jordan Aina will provide cover on both full-backs. Silvio Bello looks like a promising full-back and will play mainly with the U23’s, to begin with. Julien Carré will go straight in as the holding midfielder as he is a class act at this level.
We continued our good run of form into October, beating Cray 2-1 in the third qualifying round of the FA Cup after a brace from Jason Prior. The game also saw Olly Allen get his debut and become the youngest player ever. It’s also the first player from the academy I hand the debut.
A week later, 3rd placed Bath came to Meadowbank and got blown off the field in the first half. Both the Taylors scored inside the first 20 minutes before Matt Briggs, and James McShane made it 4-0 after 35 minutes. The game was practically over after that, despite two late consolation goals from the visitors.
The same scenario unfolded when Dulwich Hamlet came to visit in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup. Josh Taylor, Matt Briggs and Bobby-Joe Taylor made it 3-0 inside the first 30 minutes before Alfie Rutherford scored the fourth an hour later. It is the first time in the clubs’ history we have managed to qualify for the first of the FA cup. Moreover, one of the short term targets can be checked out after just three months of the season- an excellent achievement for both club and manager.
Three days later, we got our feet back on the ground when we lost to Oxford City. We came under 3-0 before Prior, and James McShane tried their best to get a result for us.
The games come like pearls on a string, and we just had four days before Maidstone away. Another goal from McShane made it 1-0 and another clean sheet.
Three days later, Eastbourne Boro came to visit, and we fielded a heavily rotated team. Two penalties converted by Bobby-Joe Taylor made it 2-0 and an excellent result for us.
The Dartford game was the 5th game in two weeks, and that’s a heavy load for a part-time team. Dartford took the lead in the first half before Bobby-Joe Taylor equalized straight after the break. A red card for Josh Okotcha made it tough to win.
Starting the month with the Accrington game, who’s the possibly biggest game in the clubs’ history. It’s also, at least to my knowledge, the first-ever TV sent match from the Meadowbank, and that’s something to be proud of.
We held on for 77 minutes before conceiving and had more possession and chances than a team three levels above us; we can be more than happy with our strong performance.
We don’t get any rest yet, and the game against Hemel Hempstead came just four days later. Jason Prior gave us the lead in the first half before they equalized after 70 minutes. In the 83rd minute, Prior was tripped, and Bobby-Joe Taylor converted the penalty to secure the win. Again a tough away game just days after the last one when we visited Slough and got beat. We tried hard to get a goal, but Slough hit us on the counter and scored their second in injury time.
Finally, we got well-needed rest and had two weeks off before the game against Eastbourne Boro. It was a game with goals from James McShane, Alfie Rutherford, Ed Harris and Josh Taylor. There was never a question if we were going to win.
Our worst month so far when it comes to results, but I’m glad we were able to finish on a high.
We started with a comfortable win against Chippenham after goals from Jason Prior, Matt Briggs and a wonderful bicycle-kick from James McShane. Against Welling, Josh Taylor scored inside the first minute of the game, and we were never threatened before Prior scored the second one.
We knew the FA Trophy game against Lancing would be relatively easy, so some players were rested, and Dominic Rogerson and Silvo Bello got their debuts. A James McShane hattrick and goals from Alfie Rutherford and Niall McManus got us through to the next round.
We expected Havant & W to be a formidable opponent, and they took the lead after 11 minutes. But, after that, it was all about us, McShane scored the first two and turned it around single-handedly before Josh Taylor and Alfie Rutherford chipped in with goals as well.
We beat Dulwich Hamlet easily last time around, but this time it was different. First, Jason Prior got us up 1-0 before Dulwich Hamlet turned the game around with goals in the 66th and 74th minute. Then, I sent everyone forward to get a result, and the supersub Alfie Rutherford scored two more in the 89th and 93rd minute. What a way to end the year!
With a win ratio of 100%, I well deserved it with another Manager of the month award.
The new year was only two days old when we travelled to Havant & W. It started great with Bobby-Joe Taylor converting a penalty after 13 minutes. Then, in the second half, it exploded when Havant & W scored twice in two minutes to turn the game. Luckily Alfie Rutherford started this one after his impressive appearance last time. It took one minute for him to equalize, two more minutes to get us back in the lead and ten more minutes to secure his hattrick!
We needed to rotate the team two days later, and Hampton & Richmond took advantage of that, going 2-0 up within 20 minutes. We managed to get one back with James McShane before they scored again. Then, again, in comes Rutherford, but this time it was too late when he scored in the 93rd minute.
We were back to our usual selves against Braintree, beating them comfortably after a brace from Jason Prior and a beautiful freekick from Bobby-Joe Taylor.
FC Halifax from the league above had no chance against us. Goals from Prior, Ed Harris and Josh Taylor combined with us playing them off the field for 85 minutes. When we turned off, they got two back, but we were never threatened.
We have been chasing Ebbsfleet all season with them rarely dropping points, so I marked this game in the calendar for a long time. Eight points behind before the game, we needed a win to keep up. With both teams being nervous and not taking any chances, the first half was a stalemate. In the second half, I decided to go for it. After 20 minutes, Ed Harris scored after a corner. When Prior scored five minutes later, the game was over. A massive win for us!
We wanted to beat Oxford City after losing last time, but they got the better of us again. We were 3-1 up after goals from Matt Briggs, Prior and McShane. However, that proved insufficient when they got a penalty and scored after a corner in the 93rd minute.
Against Billericay, nothing seemed to work, and we were lucky to get a result after a late goal from Prior.
We started February with signing a new player to provide cover during the rest of the season. A former FM-wonderkid and prodigy, Zeli Ismail hasn’t had the career we all thought he would. However he could do a decent job at this level for us.
Against Tonbridge, everything seemed to work, and we did what we wanted. Both Alfie Rutherford and Jason Prior scored braces after Ed Harris gave us the lead after five minutes. However, the best goal of the day was Julien Carré when he sent away a screamer from 35 meters.
Bath was an important game as they are third on the table. It would be great to get a gap. However, goals from Alfie Rutherford and a debut goal from Zeli Ismail made sure that happened – and with Ebbsfleet lousy run of form, we’re on the top of the table for the first time in a long time.
Not fielding our strongest eleven proved to be costly against Chesterfield. Josh Okotcha got his first goal for the club, but it wasn’t enough. However, at least it demonstrates that only our best players are good enough to compete at the level above.
With fresh legs on some key players, Chelmsford was no match for us. In the first half, a brace for James McShane and goals from Jason Prior and Josh Taylor killed the game. Chelmsford got two back before a rare goal from Calum Kennedy secured the win. The same story against Maidstone with a brace from Prior this time. They got one back at us before McShane, and Bobby-Joe Taylor scored the third and fourth. In injury time, the legend that is George Elokobi scored for Maidstone. Nice to see some ex-Premier League players at this level.
A total of 15 goals in the games at home this month is nothing less than fantastic. To top of a a already great month in the league, Jason Prior won player of the month and I won Manager of the month for the third time.
Except for the first round in the FA cup, we haven’t lost a game at home since August. We’ve managed to turn Meadowbank into something of a fortress so far this season.
Ebbsfleet has one game in hand, but we play them at the end of March, so it’s all up to us now. With a bit of luck and a good run of form, we can win the league and get one step closer to the EFL.
Stay tuned for the last 12 games of the season.