Healey pen 71
HONOURS even on the final day and a pleasing performance from United against an Ebbsfleet side heading to the play-offs.
United created the better chances on the day and it was against the run of play when Jack Connors scored the opener on 69 minutes but Healey restored parity with a penalty from the next attack to earn a deserved point.
United boss Gary Owers made two changes from the side that slipped to a 4-3 defeat to Guiseley in midweek, bringing back Michee Efete and Brett Williams for Conrad Balatoni and Jamie Reid.
Ebbsfleet manager Daryl McMahon stuck with the same 11 that earned him a 5-2 win at Gateshead on Tuesday night, when Danny Kedwell notched a hat-trick.
The significance of the game to Ebbsfleet was immediately evident in the large numbers of their noisy away support but the volume was briefly on mute, as Connor Lemonheigh-Evans warmed the hands of goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore with a rasping low drive.
United continued their bright opening with some neat passing around the Fleet penalty area, culminating in a 20-yard shot from drifting just wide. The next effort was a strike from Liam Davis deflected into the side-netting.
Healey then breached the Fleet defence with a surge in the left channel and it needed a solid save from the feet of Ashmore to keep the scores level.
The visitors finally found some attacking impetus on 18 minutes and it stemmed from a delicious first-time pass inside left-back Liam Davis, but goalkeeper Vincent Dorel was equal to the powerful low drive from Lawrie Wilson.
Kedwell forced Dorel into a low save from a half-volley in the following minute and there was a definite change in momentum, although the Gulls did well to dampen the enthusiasm, as the game began to drift toward half-time.
Andy Drury scooped a shot wide in the final act of a fairly quiet first period but a fabulous lung-bursting break from Connor Lemonheigh-Evans had the Yellow Army on their feet immediately after the restart. The Fleet eventually defended the situation but bright stuff from the on-loan midfielder.
Newly-crowned Player of the Season, Luke Young, then scampered down the left and delivered a low cross that just eluded the back-post run of Healey. Ebbsfleet responded with their first substitution, removing Jack Powell for Myles Weston.
A tepid game got heated when Dave Winfield hauled Elliott Romain to the ground with a cynical challenge and then made it worse with some unnecessary grappling on the ground. Winfield deserved his yellow card, Romain very harshly treated to also be booked.
Lemonheigh-Evans almost grazed the post with a delicious effort from the subsequent free-kick and the applause switched to the other soon after, as Dorel produced a superb one-handed save to block Coulson’s drive into the bottom corner.
Aaron Barnes fired straight at Ashmore on 67 minutes and Romain fired into the side-netting, as United turned the screw on their increasingly nervous visitors.
No better way to relieve the tension than scoring the opening goal through substitute Connors, only on the pitch for a few minutes before his cross deceived Dorel and found the far corner.
It was a harsh outcome for United but a mild sense of football justice restored moments later, as Williams was hauled down in the box and Healey stepped up to calmly slot home a confident spot-kick.
Far from a dull end-of-season encounter, it had turned into a fine game and both sides were definitely going for the three points. Ruairi Keating replaced Williams for the final 10 minutes and a chance for the Irishman to pinch some late glory.
The endeavour continued right through to the end and a decent display to complete a tough campaign for the Gulls.
Our final word of huge thanks and praise to the Yellow Army. Your support, dedication and loyalty has been magnificent. We salute you all.
United (3-4-3): 30 Vincent Dorel; 2 Michee Efete, 6 Josh Gowling, 5 Sean McGinty (capt); 21 Aaron Barnes, 8 Luke Young, 29 Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, 3 Liam Davis; 39 Brett Williams (10 Ruairi Keating 79), 22 Elliott Romain, 28 Rhys Healey. Substitutes (not used): 1 Ryan Clarke (GK), 18 Yan Klukowski, 19 Jamie Reid, 26 Conrad Balatoni.
Booked: Romain 59
Ebbsfleet (4-3-3): 13 Nathan Ashmore; 27 Lawrie Wilson, 6 Kenny Clark, 5 Dave Winfield (capt), 26 Chris Bush (3 Jack Connors 67); 4 Dean Rance, 7 Jack Powell (11 Myles Weston 56), 8 Andy Drury; 28 Corey Whitely, 9 Danny Kedwell, 25 Luke Coulson. Substitutes (not used): 2 Marvin McCoy, 13 Jon Miles (GK), 23 Norman Wabo
Booked: Winfield 59
Referee: Thomas Bramall
Attendance: 1,728 (363 away).