ON THE ROAD: Storm Dennis fails to rain on Ebbsfleet United’s parade in the National League


So, Storm Dennis, let’s see what you’ve got. That’s what one bloke seems to say as he arrives in a short-sleeved Ebbsfleet United shirt, sticking two fingers up to the elements.

The Kuflink Stadium’s Swanscombe End — the only standing area without a roof — has five people in it, and two of those are stewards.

Sportsmail is in the stand opposite, watching as one man drops his KitKat wrapper, then comically chases it in vain.

The Kuflink Stadium played host to Ebbsfleet United's win over Chorley in the National League

The Kuflink Stadium played host to Ebbsfleet United’s win over Chorley in the National League

Another woman, attending with her husband, is having difficulty doing the word search in her puzzle book because the wind keeps trying to turn the page.

You sit and clench your muscles in a bid to beat the chill, while goalkicks go out of play and free-kick takers follow the ball whenever it goes for a wander.

One of only three National League games to survive Saturday’s weather, this is football in the eye of the storm. The plus side, apparently, is sales of bobble hats have spiked in the club shop.

At one point, I wonder whether I could get away with an Ebbsfleet raincoat on expenses.

This is a big game at the bottom of the table. The hosts are 23rd, visitors Chorley 24th.

‘You’re from the Daily Mail?’ asks Phil the fan in the bar before kick-off. ‘Here’s what you should print: a picture of the s*** emoji, an equals sign, then a picture of the Ebbsfleet badge.’

Phil, his mate informs me, is a pessimist, but there has not been a lot to shout about lately. Their last outing saw them lose at home to seventh-tier outfit Royston Town in the FA Trophy.

Sportsmail's Kieran Gill was in attendance on Saturday and had to wrap up warm in the stand

Sportsmail’s Kieran Gill was in attendance on Saturday and had to wrap up warm in the stand

Last week a key player, Myles Weston, had his contract cancelled. Two days later he joined National League relegation rivals Dagenham & Redbridge. Ebbsfleet’s owner is a billionaire, but there have been problems, including late payment of wages.

Dr Abdulla Al-Humaidi is a busy man with other ventures.

He is the financial backer of the London Resort — the £3.5billion theme park nearby that aspires to be the British equivalent of Disneyland, due to open in 2024.

Well, it’s certainly a rollercoaster ride being an Ebbsfleet fan.

This week the club appointed a new chief executive, Damian Irvine, who revealed pre-match that his priority is to restore the trust between staff, supporters and the owners.

What they could not afford was defeat by bottom-of-the-table Chorley. A total of 712 souls have braved the conditions to take in an afternoon of windswept football.

At 0-0 in the 51st minute, the visitors’ Marcus Carver fails to capitalise on a poor backpass by Jack King. The forward, perhaps embarrassed by his miss, goes down injured.

It's certainly a rollercoaster ride being an Ebbsfleet fan which the latest events show

It’s certainly a rollercoaster ride being an Ebbsfleet fan which the latest events show

In reaction, an Ebbsfleet fan, smothered in red clothing, pulls a miniature brass trumpet out of his coat pocket, puts it to his lips and makes the sound of an ambulance siren.

Then comes a chant of ‘We’re gonna score in a minute’. And they do. A cross by Frankie Sutherland, a goal by King. ‘We are staying up,’ is next. In the 87th minute, a penalty to Chorley. Goalkeeper David Gregory trips Alex Kiwomya and the fans come from under their shelter to try to put off the taker, Alex Newby.

They stand behind the goal, in the rain, pulling all sorts of shapes. Newby’s spot-kick is saved, and Gregory runs into the crowd at full time to celebrate.

He is the hero. Amid the chaos, one chap takes a whack where the sun doesn’t shine and has to be helped back to his seat by a chuckling steward.

That supporter will tell you the blow was worth it, as will the rest of the Ebbsfleet fanbase who risked losing the feeling in their toes to watch their team.

For the hosts, this afternoon was wet but wonderful, tense but terrific. Five points from safety, and with 12 games to go, suddenly the prospect of survival does not seem so ludicrous.

The celebrations at full time said it all. Not even Storm Dennis could rain on this parade.


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