The Fleet only ever won twice at Underhill, but they started off life at The Hive with a comprehensive win over Barnet. Corey Whitely’s third goal of the season helped seal the win but he finally let some teammates in on the action with Danny Kedwell and Sean Shields finding the net either side of his own strike.
Daryl McMahon made two changes to his side, Ebou Adams and Myles Weston coming in for Chris Bush and Michael Cheek. And in a first for the Fleet under McMahon, there was no sub goalkeeper with the boss preferring additional options on his bench.
Barnet made five changes, with skipper Callum Reynolds and striker Shaq Coulthirst out of the lineup but their front pair of Byron Harrison and Ephron Mason-Clark showed some neat movement, with Sam Magri and Dave Winfield having to monitor those two carefully.
Fleet were the first to show their hand, though, when Corey Whitely sprinted into the box. He was tackled but Danny Kedwell picked up the loose ball and found Sean Shields who cut in and hit a shot at goalkeeper Mark Cousins.
Barnet came back into things on 10 minutes when Dan Sparkes wriggled free of Winfield’s attentions and the Fleet skipper hauled him back on the edge of the box, earning himself a yellow card.
Chances were at a premium although Kedwell got off another shot after the referee played advantage following a foul on Magri in the build-up, Dan Sweeney earning a caution for that challenge.
Weston showed speed and strength on the occasions he saw the ball but his best low cross was cut out by Cousins at the near post.
The standout chance for the home side came on the half-hour when Sparkes’ free-kick curled through a crowded box and towards the target before an unsighted Ashmore got down late to superbly push away the shot. Injured in the aftermath, there were some anxious moments for the Fleet as he was prone, McMahon perhaps thinking wryly about his pre-match comments that it would be typical to lose a keeper the one time he didn’t name one on the bench.
Barnet stepped things up as the half closed. On 36 minutes a good ball forward saw Harrison sneak in behind Magri but Winfield was across in a flash to cut out the danger. Harrison was set free again three minutes later but Jack Powell did ever so well to slide in and clear from under the Barnet striker’s feet.
It was a warning to the Fleet and they heeded it. On the stroke of half-time, a foul on Weston saw Drury pounce on the ball to take a quick free-kick. It landed for Kedwell who dug it out at the second time of asking, turned and smashed home a low shot to give his side the lead.
In five minutes of stoppage time, Charlee Adams headed a Sparkes corner inches wide but Fleet held on at the break.
The blue shirts started the second half on he front foot, Drury heading over from a corner, but Barnet stepped up the pressure for a spell after that. The back three had to stand tall on the edge of their box as the Bees forwards hit three shots, all blocked. On 55 minutes, they should have got a shot away with a scramble on the penalty spot but with three Barnet players poised, a shot went harmlessly wide over Ashmore’s post.
Adams hit a shot over the bar at the other end before another glorious chance was wasted by Barnet just before the hour mark. Harrison won a header that landed for Sparkes at the far post but with the goal at his mercy he blazed high over the bar from close range.
Chances came and went at both ends, Kedwell racing on to a ball over the top and getting beyond the last defender but he was being pushed wide and could only hook a shot past the far post.
But the Barnet challenge was killed off on 65 minutes. A mix-up in the Barnet defence from Adams’ pass allowed Whitely to get a touch but Cousins managed to thwart that before the Fleet’s leading scorer picked himself up to smash a shot high into the net from close range before the goalkeeper could recover.
That gave Fleet enough daylight to play without restriction and Barnet struggled to get anything beyond the visitors’ defence. Cousins raced out to steal the ball ahead of Shields after he was put through by Adams and when Luke Coulson was introduced with 10 minutes to go, Fleet were able to step it up again.
Barnet weren’t entirely devoid of chances and Ashmore had to hold onto a Sparkes free kick while the home midfield’s decision-making left much to be desired as a pass was often overhit or mopped up by the Fleet rearguard.
With two minutes left on the clock, Fleet made it a memorable three. A quick move through midfield saw Shields feed Adams. He played Coulson through but Cousins saved at his feet before the eager Shields, who had continued his run, somehow managed to squeeze the ball over Cousins’ head and in at the foot of the far post.
EUFC: Ashmore, King, Magri, Winfield, Adams, Drury, Powell (Rance 58), Weston (Bush 68), Shields, Whitely (Coulson 78), Kedwell. Subs: Cheek, McQueen
BFC: Cousins, Alexander, Robson, Adams, Harrison (Barham 80), Sparkes, Fonguck, Elito (Coulthirst 60), Tutonda, Sweeney, Mason-Clark (Walker 75). Subs: Matrevics, Payne
Attendance: 1,217 (321 away)