Boreham Wood gritted and grafted against a strong Ebbsfleet United side, but fell just short, suffering a 3-2 defeat away from home on Saturday.
Jack King opened the scoring for the home side in the sixth minute, before Keiran Murtagh dragged it back level four minutes later.
Garry Hill’s side were soon ahead again in an action packed first 20 minutes, before adding a third in the second half through Chris Bush. Mark Ricketts was then harshly shown a red card, following a second yellow.
A late goal from Bradley Ash and a flurry of final minute chances for the Wood nearly saw them level the score, but the home side held out.
Luke Garrard made just one change from the midweek draw with Dover Athletic, as Ricky Shakes replaced Bradley Ash.
There was an early blow for the Wood, following some lax defending at a free-kick. Gozie Ugwu’s initial shot crashed against the post and King reacted fastest to slot home the rebound.
The home side’s lead was short-lived though, as Charlie Cooper grabbed his second assist in as many games. The midfielder swept a delightful ball into the box and Murtagh rose above his marker to power a header past Nathan Ashmore and into the back of the net.
The Wood defended a Bagasan Graham free-kick well and countered with pace, as Justin Shaibu darted after the ball. However, Ebbsfleet got men back and outnumbered the forward.
Garry Hill’s side took the lead once again on the 20-minute mark, through a Jack Payne corner. Sam Magri got ahead of his marker to send a diving header past Huddart.
King then got his head onto the end of another delivery, this time from Lawrie Wilson, but could only send the effort wide.
Still in the ascendency, Ugwu fizzled a twisted effort from outside of the area that crashed against the woodwork. The Wood backline mopped up the scraps, before Ebbsflleet could pounce.
Looking for a way back into the game, Huddart sent a ball long over the top of the Fleet defence, but Shaibu was beaten to it by Dean Rance.
Cooper played a stunning long-ball around the back of the Ebbsfleet defence and Kanu latched onto it, before being taken out by Magri, who received a yellow card for his troubles.
Shaibu got a header onto the subsequent free-kick, but Ashmore was down to save and hold. Kanu then attempted a half-volley on the edge of the area, which was blocked.
With the first half drawing to a close, the Wood had a shout for a penalty turned down. Kanu got in-front of his marker as a ball went over the top of the defence and went to ground as he was set to strike, but the referee turned down calls for a spot kick.
The Wood returned for the second half desperately in need of an equaliser, and Murtagh smelt blood when Shaibu chested down Ilesanmi’s cross, but his left footed half-volley was gathered by Ashmore.
Ebbsfleet then added a third to their tally to give them a two-goal cushion. Huddart had come out to claim a free-kick but missed the ball. Bush reacted quickest to fire a shot off the underside of the bar, onto the line and in.
Michael Cheek done well to get onto the end of a cross from Myles Weston, but sent his header inches wide of Huddart’s left post.
Huddart had to be alert at a free-kick, as Chris Bush’s effort got past the Wood wall and crept towards the left corner. The Wood ‘keeper was down to push it wide and David Stephens then beat Ugwu to the afters.
The Wood’s task was made harder as skipper Mark Ricketts received his marching orders in the 67thminute. Ricketts was already on a yellow and was shown a second one for a foul on Wilson, on the halfway line. Ebbsfleet’s Rance argued Ricketts’ innocence, but the referee had already made up his mind.
A fantastic ball from Jamal Fyfield went between the Ebbsfleet centre-backs and Ralston Gabriel connected with it, but Ebbsfleet managed to nick it away for a corner, which came to nothing.
Femi Ilesanmi made a goal saving block on the line to keep the Wood in it, following Weston’s low shot from close range.
Fyfield turned creator once again as he played a superb ball into the box for Ash to run onto. The forward pulled it back into the area, but David Winfield cleared.
The Wood then earned themselves a lifeline, with less than five minutes to go. Gabriel reacted brilliantly to snap up a mistake from Winfield and dart towards Ashmore. He pulled it back for Ash, who placed it into an empty net.
Winfield was injured in the aftermath and forced off, leaving Ebbsfleet with ten men, having made all of their substitutions.
With four minutes of injury time on the board, Garrard’s men would throw the kitchen sink at Ebbsfleet. Ash ran at his man on the edge of the box, before tucking it back to Ilesanmi. The left-back’s cross caused problems for the Fleet centre-backs, but they eventually scrapped it away.
Ash’s strike partner Gabriel done superbly to win the ball down the left and beat Magri through sheer pave and strength. He wrapped the ball across the box and Ebbsfleet somehow managed to get it away.
Their closest attempt came through Fyfield, as the wind took his cross and curled it towards the top right corner, going just inches wide.
With seconds remaining, Huddart came up for a corner. The ‘keeper got onto the end of the ball and headed it towards Ash, but he was surrounded by defenders and couldn’t do anything with it.
The Wood: Huddart, Ilesanmi, Ricketts ©, Stephens, Shakes, Champion, Murtagh (Woodards 72’), Fyfield, Cooper (Gabriel 60’), Kanu, Shaibu (Ash 60’)
Subs not used: Legg, Woodards, Parry
Ebbsfleet United: Ashmore, King ©, Magri (Winfield 71’), Rance, Adams, Cheek (Whitely 76’), Ugwu, Payne, Bush, Graham (Weston 29’), Wilson
Subs not used: Winfield, Kedwell, Weston, Moncur, Whitely
Red card: Ricketts 67’
The Wood: Murtagh 10’
Ebbsfleet United: King 6’, Magri 20’, Bush 52’