If pre-season is all about improvement, then Fleet are following a straight line upwards, exchanging last Friday’s 6-2 win for tonight’s 7-2 victory.
It was a vibrant and attacking display, particularly in the first-half when Lee Martin’s goal inside the first minute kick-started a flood of early goals as the visitors went in 5-0 to the good at the break.
Jack Paxman returned to the squad after sitting out the opener with a slight knock and skipper Lee Martin also returned. He began the move that led to the first goal before 60 seconds were up, carving a path through midfield and finding Adam Mekki. With a pass returned to him, Martin skipped across the box, dragged the ball away from the defenders’ attentions and struck it into the bottom corner.
It was Martin’s pressure on Chatham goalkeeper Harvey Mills seven minutes later that led to the second. Mills could only half-clear the ball and it fell to Mekki who lifted an excellent lob into the back of the net with enough ferocity to see it come bouncing back out into open play.
It was 3-0 on 13 minutes when Ben Chapman sprayed a long pass upfield towards Elliott Romain. The former Dartford striker still had plenty to do to beat the defender for pace but did so and advanced on goal, tucking a shot out of the keeper’s reach, low and over the line.
Chapman was the architect once more shortly before the half-hour when another raking ball upfield found Paxman. Fleet’s player of the year teed up Lee Martin for a shot on goal that came back off the crossbar but Romain was on hand to nod it back over the line for 4-0.
There was little let-up from the Fleet who kept Chatham penned largely into their own half or midfield and a fifth goal duly arrived four minutes later. Will Wood and Lee Martin made a run from a corner but the ball skidded through all of them and out to the lurking Craig Tanner who stroked his shot on target and into the net from 15 yards.
It was credit to former Fleet skipper Scott Lindsey that he got his Chatham side back up for it after that first-half mauling and the second-half saw the home side more purposeful in containing the white shirts.
Dennis Kutrieb introduced six substitutes and one of them, Dominic Poleon, extended the lead to six on 64 minutes. Sido Jombati’s run and clever feet opened up the defence and he played a pass wide to Wood who cut into the box and crossed to the far post, allowing Poleon a simple tap-in.
Chatham got one back 10 minutes later. A free-kick a fair distance out was curled into the box by former Dartford man Ryan Hayes but the run and jump of Dan Bradshaw disguised the flight of the ball and it swung straight in and off the bottom of the post.
Within a minute, however, action had swung back to the other end. Poleon and Alfie Egan exchanged passes and as the latter surged into the box, he was upended. Rakish Bingham did the rest, striking a low, firm penalty to the goalkeeper’s left.
There was still time for more goal action to reward the crowd and it was a second for Chatham right at the end. Wood’s clearance was cut out on the edge of the box and as red shirts closed down the space, it was left to Jordy Robins to fire in a well-placed shot just out of Harrison Firth’s reach.
EUFC: Haigh (Firth 46), Chapman (Krasniqi 46), Joe Martin (Cundle 46), Jombati, N’Guessan, Paxman (Egan 46), Wood, Mekki, Tanner (Poleon 46), Lee Martin (Bingham 46), Romain.