Dorking Wanderers will contest the biggest game in their history on Saturday when they face Ebbsfleet United at Meadowbank in a game which will secure a place in next season’s National League for the victors. Dorking have never been beyond National League South in their short 23-year history. As for Ebbsfleet, who celebrated 75 years of existence in 2021, they are looking to secure a return to non-league’s top tier after being controversially relegated in the 2019/20 season on a points per game basis.
Dorking confidently saw off Oxford City 3-0 last Saturday to make it to the final. Wanderers’ 2nd placed league finish meant they only had to contest two home ties in order to secure promotion. After finishing 3rd, the Fleet had only one home tie, their extra time victory last Sunday over Dartford’s conquerors Chippenham Town. Meadowbank is a sell-out, and it promises to be an exciting afternoon, with the Promotion final in National League North also taking place between York City and Boston United to determine another National League place for next season.
Ebbsfleet United are a club based in Kent and were known as Gravesend & Northfleet until 2007 when they became Ebbsfleet United. They play at the Kuflink Stadium, formerly known as Stonebridge Road and are managed by German Dennis Kutrieb. Kutrieb moved to England after managing in Germany’s fifth tier and his first season at the club was in 2020/21 which was unfortunately cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The club first reached National League level back in 2002 and remained there until the 2009-10 season when they were relegated to the old conference south. They were pretty much a mainstay of non-league step two until the 2016-17 season, when they won a promotion final after two promotion final defeats in the previous three seasons. An outstanding 6th placed finish in 17-18 ensured they would play in the end of season play-offs, but they lost a promotion semi-final to eventual winners Tranmere Rovers 4-2 at Prenton Park. In 18-19 they finished 8th but they were however relegated in the 19-20 season on a points per game basis, brought on by the pandemic. They were relegated by 0.002 points and despite not being in the relegation zone at the time of the season being curtailed, Maidenhead United were spared relegation and subsequently moved above them. Ebbsfleet were 8th when the season was cut short again in 2020-21.
Their squad is full of talent. Goalkeeper Louis Moulden is their current number one. He was between the sticks when Ebbsfleet and Dorking met at the Kuflink back in March and is on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Before that he had a spell on loan at Gloucester City and has been part of Liverpool and Manchester City’s academies. The likes of Joe Martin and Chris Solly are full backs who have football league experience. Martin is a 33-year-old left back who counts Millwall, Gillingham and Stevenage among his former clubs. Solly is 31 and a right back who had played over 300 times for Charlton Athletic before joining Ebbsfleet in 2020. Alex Finney has been a mainstay at central defence since his arrival from Aldershot Town last summer. He spent two years at the Shots after spells at Bolton Wanderers and Leyton Orient. Adam Mekki provides a plethora of experience. He played in the football league for Aldershot Town before spending time in non-league with the likes of Tranmere Rovers, Dover Athletic and Bromley. Ben Chapman chiefly plays in central midfield but is known to be versatile, slotting into right back or centre back when needed. He had a spell at Crystal Palace earlier in his career before joining the Fleet from Dulwich Hamlet in 2020.
Lee Martin is a player EFL fans will be aware of. He scored the winning goal for Ebbsfleet in their promotion semi-final win after extra time against Chippenham Town. The 35-year-old started his career at Manchester United. After just one first team appearance for them and several loan spells, former Red Devil and then Ipswich Town manager Roy Keane paid £1.5m for Martin in 2009. Spells at the likes of Millwall and Exeter City followed before he finally settled at Ebbsfleet in 2020. He can operate out wide or through the middle behind an attacker. Rakish Bingham scored in Fleet’s 1-1 draw with Dorking back in March. He has experience in League One with Doncaster Rovers. He helped his previous club Dundee United to promotion to the Scottish Premiership in 2020 before joining the Fleet. He had spells at Hartlepool United, Hamilton Academical and Falkirk before that. He started his career at Wigan Athletic. Dominic Poleon was a trainee at Leeds United and play for them in their days in the Championship before joining Oldham in 2015. Spells at Crawley Town and Newport County followed before the now 28-year-old centre forward settled at Ebbsfleet in 2021.
The two clubs have only met three times previously and Dorking haven’t lost. They have won two of the three meetings. Dorking won 2-0 in January 2021 at Meadowbank and 5-1 in January, with Matt Briggs bagging a hat trick. They contested a 1-1 draw back in March, with James McShane’s opener quickly being cancelled out by Rakish Bingham.