The Fleet earned their second draw of the season to share the points with AFC Fylde after an equaliser for the home side and red card for the visitors within five minutes of each other threatened to leave Dennis Kutrieb’s men empty-handed.
But the Fleet had other ideas and did very well to stem the Fylde tide, almost winning it themselves through goalscorer Dominic Poleon at the end – which might have provided some justice for what appeared to be a very harsh sending-off for Ouss Cissé.
There were four changes from the midweek cup tie at Slough and in came Cissé, Billy Clifford back from suspension, Toby Edser and Poleon.
The Fleet made some promising early running and Max Conway had to head over David Amoo’s speculative effort on six minutes. Amoo had important work to do four minutes later when Josh Kay’s low delivery from the left was Fylde’s first real show of menace and the Fleet No.24 booted it clear from the six-yard box.
Fleet could have done without losing Darren McQueen to an injury on the quarter-hour but it gave Matthias Fanimo a second chance to impress.
Fylde began to step up their possession from the 20-minute mark and Mark Cousins had to help Sam Graham’s header over the bar and the Fleet goalkeeper was then down very well to Luke Charman’s short-range effort after a ball in skipped over the feet of Haydn Hollis.
Poleon had shown a few glimpses of his pace and he got away on 25 minutes courtesy of Hollis’s clearance. The Fleet top scorer advanced and dropped his effort into the six-yard box where it bounced clear with Cissé advancing.
He shrugged off that miss by scoring moments later. Fanimo did the damage by turning his man down the right and stroked the ball back into the box where Poleon slammed it low into the corner to resume his assault on the National League scoring charts.
Fanimo was proving a menace and zipped another shot just wide on 29 minutes while Cousins foiled Charman again 10 minutes later at the other end with another very smart block. Fylde applied a little more pressure towards the end of the first-half and Hollis got his head in the way of a strong effort from Jon Ustabasi to send the ball over and out for a corner.
With four minutes added due to the McQueen injury, Harry Davis should have done better than plant a deep cross the wrong side of the Fleet post and Nick Haughton floated a shot just clear of the crossbar. Hollis hoisted Charman’s first-time cross out of his box and Fleet went in more than satisfied with their first-half endeavours.
Fylde posted early warning in the second-half when Kay flashed a dangerous shot across the Fleet goal and the same player then sent a drive into Cousins’ midriff. It was a hat-trick of chances for Kay by 52 minutes as he kept a volley down that skipped off the turf to be gathered once more by Cousins.
Cousins got a hand to Ustabasi’s run and shot after Franklin Domi slipped in possession but Fylde’s solid start to the half was rewarded on 57 minutes. A free-kick from just inside the Fleet half from Connor Barrett was looped forward and Davis peeled away into space to send a header away from Cousins and in.
It was a bad five minutes for the Fleet as they lost Cissé to a somewhat convoluted red card. White and Kay went to ground in a challenge and as the Fleet defender sprang to his feet, Kay dramatically hit the deck again as Cissé moved in to act as peacemaker but didn’t appear to make any significant contact. Indeed the midfielder seemed so surprised by his dismissal that it took several minutes for it to become apparent which player had actually been dismissed.
Naturally that put Fylde on the front foot and Haughton had two good opportunities fly just wide on 65 and then 75 minutes. White’s outstretched leg prevented Barrett’s delivery doing any damage but it looped ominously over his own goal and just before that, Poleon sent an effort swooping through the six-yard box.
Fleet were unfortunate not to take the lead eight minutes from the end when Edser’s corner to the near post was met by Hollis but scrambled off the line by goalkeeper Theo Richardson. The keeper pushed Poleon’s 89th minute break and shot round the post as Fleet refused to allow the game to become a case of one-way traffic. Indeed Edser and Poleon had the best opportunity as the game reached the 90 when they had sight of goal, Poleon eventually twisting and turning to only find the side netting.
There was a succession of Fleet corners as eight minutes were added on and Fylde tried to regain some impetus but the visitors defended well to absorb whatever came their way and take a point from Mill Farm.
EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill, White, Hollis, Cissé, Clifford, Domi, Edser, McQueen (Fanimo 14, Sterling-James 71), Amoo (Chapman 58), Poleon. Subs: Solly, Odokonyero
AFCF: Richardson, Davis, Conway, Haughton, Kay (Omotayo 70), Graham, Barrett, Ustabasi, Khumbeni (O’Kane 83), Charman (Rowley 77), Whitehead. Subs: Obi, Philliskirk
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