By Tom Howard
FA Trophy Final Wembley Stadium
Ebbsfleet United 1 Torquay United 0
CHRIS McPhee’s strike on the stroke of half-time proved enough for Ebbsfleet United as they made history in becoming FA Trophy winners in their first appearance at Wembley.
There were extraordinary scenes at the final whistle as the Fleet became the first Kent team to lift the trophy.
Captain Paul McCarthy held the trophy aloft after fomer Torquay United star, McPhee, won the game with his effort just before the interval.
Manager Liam Daish made two changes to his all important starting 11 for the showpiece final, with James Smith coming into the centre of defence zand pushing Peter Hawkins to right back.
Mark Ricketts missed out on starting place along with striker Chukki Eribenne.
With the sun shining and at the famous Wembley arena, packed full of a strong Fleet contingent the match got under way.
For the opening 10 minutes Ebbsfleet looked a bit overawed by the occasion, but it did not take them long to settle.
However, it was Torquay who has the first chance to put themselves in front with a 25-yard free kick from Kevin Nicholson. Fleet goalkeeper Lance Cronin was equal to the strike and made a fine one handed save to his left, with four minutes on the clock.
Fleet fans were on the edge of their seats minutes later as Torquay winger Roscoe D’Sane shot narrowly wide. The Fleet’s first effort on goal came from the boot of Stacy Long who fired over from 20-yards.
The effort from Long sparked a change in the match as Ebbsfleet began to take control of the possession and the chances. John Akinde made his strength count and fired in a shot but the deflection fell to Michael Bostwick, but his venomous drive was saved by Torquay goalkeeper Martin Rice.
Long had the next chance cutting in side from the left wing and he must have thought his effort would find the net, but Rice pulled off a stunning save.
Two minutes later Sacha Opinel let fly with a 25-yard drive that went agonisingly wide.
The game took another twist once again in favour of Daish’s side as they were awarded a penalty on 38 minutes. Chris McPhee’s pass found Luke Moore in the Torquay area and the teenager was brought down by Rice.
Former Torquay player McPhee stepped up to take it but his placed strike was saved by Rice to the disbelief of the Fleet support. However, McPhee did not let the miss get to him and he redeemed himself in the best possible way by scoring on the stroke of half-time.
Akinde chased down a lost cause in the corner and dispossessed Chris Todd. The striker put the ball across the area for the on-rushing McPhee to stab into the bottom corner sending the Fleet supporters wild.
Daish did not make any changes to his side at the interval but it was Torquay who started the second half the brighter of the two sides.
The side from Devon surged forward in a bid to find an equaliser, but the Fleet defence held strong and on the hour mark they could have increased their lead.
Neil Barrett found space on the edge of the area but his drive lacked power and Rice made a comfortable save.
Four minutes later Ebbsfleet should have scored their second of the match. Akinde used his pace to break through the defence and only had the keeper to beat but decided to pass instead and the chance was wasted.
Torquay upped their game as they still went in search of an equaliser and Fleet will have Long to thank by making a goal line clearance from Tim Sills' header.
Before anyone could draw a breath Ebbsfleet were down the other end and Smith headed over from Long’s free-kick.
The Gulls should have equalised just one minute later, the Fleet defence failed to mark substitute Elliott Benyon and his free header went wide. Fleet fans breathed a sigh of relief.
Torquay battled hard but were unable to find a way past the Fleet defence and the celebrations began at the final whistle, as Ebbsfleet United were crowned FA Trophy winner 2008.
Ebbsfleet United (4-4-2)
Lance Cronin, Peter Hawkins, Sacha Opinel, James Smith, Paul McCarthy, Stacy Long, Chris McPhee, Neil Barrett, Luke Moore, John Akinde, Michael Bostwick
Martin Rice, Kevin Nicholson, Steve Woods, Chris Todd, Lee Mansell, Tim Sills, Lee Phillips, Chris Hargreaves, Roscoe D’Sane, Steve Adams, Chris Zebroski