Kettering Town’s task of escaping relegation is looking a lot harder after they slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Ebbsfleet United.
Ebbsfleet looked the brighter from the off and that set the tone for the first half.
Sol Davis cleared Gozie Ugwu’s header off the line after five minutes but the hosts went in front when David Bridges’ headed back towards Laurie Walker wasn’t strong enough, the goalkeeper stayed on his line and Ricky Shakes nipped in to score.
Ugwu almost immediately lobbed wide of the target after breaking clear and the hosts continued to have the better chances as Ashley Westwood blocked Ugwu’s goal-bound header before Liam Enver-Marum shot straight at Walker after going through on goal.
The Poppies struggled to have any impact in the final third and the closest they came was when James Gray’s shot went over the bar after a neat move.
The visitors looked brighter in the second half and there was a half-chance when Bridges flicked on Gray’s corner but Charlie Wyke couldn’t convert at the far post.
But Ebbsfleet should have made it 2-0 on 54 minutes when Ugwu held off Westwood’s challenge and got round Walker but then blasted over the crossbar.
The game became scrappy after that with neither side able to get a grip on proceedings and substitute Djoumin Sangare had to make an important challenge to deny Ugwu after good work from Enver-Marum.
The Poppies continued to struggle and another substitute John van Engel had a curling shot headed away but that was as good as it got.
And the hosts could have added a further goal late on as Tom Phipp shot wide on two occasions.
Ebbsfleet: Cronin; Stone, Lorraine, Smith, Howe; Barrett, Bellamy (sub Marwa, 54 mins); Shakes, West (sub Pinney, 66 mins), Ugwu (sub Phipp, 78 mins), Enver-Marum. Subs not used: Willock, McNeil.
Poppies: Walker; Ifil (sub Sangare, 60 mins), Westwood, Bridges, Davis; Gray, Noubissie, Ford (sub van Engel, 78 mins), Mills; Joyce, Wyke. Subs not used: Ralph, York.
Referee: Tim Robinson.
Goals: Shakes (20 mins, 1-0).