Ebbsfleet United&';s Ryan Blake was rewarded for a successful loan spell in north Kent as he made a full debut for the Northern Ireland under-21s last week.

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Ebbsfleet United's Ryan Blake was rewarded for a successful loan spell in north Kent as he made a full debut for the Northern Ireland under-21s last week.

The full-back has impressed international selectors since moving on loan to Stonebridge Road from Brentford last month and played an hour of Wednesday night's 2-0 defeat to Wales in Wrexham.

Called up to the squad at the last minute by head coach Steve Beaglehole, Blake said playing Conference South football with the Fleet had benefitted him far more than staying in Brentford's reserves.

'It's a great honour to get my first under-21 cap,' he said. 'You have to get used to a different type of football because you're playing against some really good players so you have to be switched on.

'The ball's kept with one team for quite a lot longer so you've got to be wary of your man running in behind because the quality of pass is better. Reserve team football can't get you geared up for a 'real match' because it's not proper and some players don't want to be there.'

Blake has made the Ebbsfleet left-back position his own in recent weeks although he admitted to nerves when meeting his new team-mates for the first time, just an hour before their home game against Hampton & Richmond Borough.

'It was a bit funny walking into the changing-room because no-one knew me and they were a bit wary of a new person coming in but they've all made me feel welcome,' he said.

The sacking of Brentford manager Andy Scott came midway through Blake's initial loan period but he expects to stay with Ebbsfleet for another month.

Photo by Dave Plumb

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