Bridges hands Boro initiative in Trophy semi

Stevenage Boro 3 Ebbsfleet United 2 David Bridges late header has handed Boro a crucial advantage going into their FA Trophy semi-final second leg against Ebbsfleet United next week. Boro had thrown away a two-goal half-time lead given to them by goals from Steve Morison and Lee Boylan an

David Bridges' late header has handed Boro a crucial advantage going into their FA Trophy semi-final second leg against Ebbsfleet United next week.

Boro had thrown away a two-goal half-time lead given to them by goals from Steve Morison and Lee Boylan and it looked like next week's second leg would start on a knife edge.

Neil Barrett and Stacy Long got Fleet back in the tie but Bridges, who had threatened all afternoon, dashed their hopes of a draw when he met Andy Drury's corner with a firm header to get the Lamex Stadium faithful dreaming of Wembley once more.

Ebbsfleet flew out of the traps and could have been in front within the first 30 seconds when Sole controlled a long ball forward and tested Chris Day's handling from 20 yards but the former Millwall man was equal to it.

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But the first real chance fell Boro's way when a clever flick from Boylan put David Bridges through after the midfielder had made one of his trademark runs into the opposition penalty area.

However, the ball got stuck under Bridges' feet and his tame right-footed effort was easily saved by Fleet goalkeeper Lance Cronin.

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But a minute later Boro were in front thanks largely to a wonderful piece of quick thinking by Lawrie Wilson.

The stand-in right back's quick throw-in completely caught out the Ebbsfleet back four and Drury was on to it in a flash. The winger's looped cross from the by-line gave Morison the simplest of headers from inside the six-yard box to put Boro ahead.

Boro seized the initiative and had the FA Trophy holders firmly on the rack. Morison could have got a second in the 13th minute had he gambled on Sacha Opinel's miscued clearance following Scott Laird's driven cross but the chance went begging.

Ebbsfleet were rocking and Boro were suddenly back to the kind of swashbuckling form that was brushing teams aside in the early part of their unbeaten run.

Cole had a golden opportunity to double the lead when he latched on to Boylan's through-ball but he scuffed his left-footed shot just wide after being through on goal.

But just after the half-hour mark Boro made it 2-0 and Ebbsfleet only had themselves to blame after a comedy of errors at the back.

Laird's cross from the left prompted a mix-up between Cronin and Opinel before Darius Charles passed up the chance to clear the visitors' lines.

Laird eventually picked the ball up on the left and his poor cross was only cleared as far as Boylan, who lashed home from 15 yards.

It was the kind of schoolboy defending that would have had Fleet boss Liam Daish tearing his hair out as a former centre half. Boro, meanwhile, were clearly looking to book their place at Wembley before the second leg next week.

Ebbsfleet vanished as an attacking threat towards the end of the first half as Boro laid siege to their goal.

Cronin made a smart stop at his near post to deny Wilson after he got in behind the defence while, from the resultant corner, an audacious flick from Murphy had the Fleet 'keeper at full stretch to keep his side in the tie.

Stacy Long had a decent effort from distance just after the break but Day got down well to his right.

Boro went straight back up the other end and should have had a third when Morison's knockdown found Boylan with the freedom of the penalty area but the former Cambridge man snapped at the shot and the ball flew just wide.

But Ebbsfleet were showing a lot more enterprise early in the second half and a Michael Gash header should have acted as a warning sign to Boro.

But the warning wasn't heeded as Fleet pulled one back thanks to a brave header from Barrett. Mark Ricketts' cross was headed back into the danger area and Barrett stooped to conquer with a downward header that beat Day at his near post.

Barrett was knocked out in scoring the goal after an accidental clash with a Boro defender.

Suddenly, Ebbsfleet had their tails up and Boro looked a shadow of the side that had brushed Fleet aside in the first period.

Fleet were piling on the pressure and deservedly equalised thanks to a wonder-goal from Long in the 72nd minute. The ball was only partially cleared to the midfielder 25 yards from goal and he took one touch before unleashing a dipping volley that gave Day no chance.

Boro desperately needed to clear their heads as Westley decided to bring on Peter Vincenti in place of Cole to arrest his side's decline.

But in the end it was Bridges that turned out to be a hero as he stole in to meet Drury's pinpoint corner to hand the lead back to Boro.

Daish was clearly disappointed his side had handed the initiative back to Boro and said one word out of turn too many prompting controversial referee Stuart Attwell to send the Irishman to the stands.

Boro (4-4-2): Day 6, Laird 7, Bostwick 7, Roberts 8, Wilson 7, Cole 6 (Vincenti 78), Murphy 7 (Mills 83), Bridges 7, Drury 7 (Albrighton 90), Boylan 7, Morison 7. Subs not used: Bayes, Willock.

Ebbsfleet (4-3-3): Cronin 7, Opinel 6, Charles 5, Crooks 5, Ricketts 6, Long 7, Barrett 7 (Smith 61), Slatter 6, Sole 6 (Shakes 59), Moore 6, Gash 7. Subs not used: Mott, Duncan, Judge.

Referee: Stuart Attwell

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