Fleet produced a great comeback to turn this game on its head after their promotion rivals raced into a two-goal lead – in a match that was only given the go-ahead 60 minutes before kick-off after a period of heavy rain.
And Fleet fans may have been forgiven for wishing it had never gone ahead after a torrid opening spell in which Chelmsford looked to have secured their three points early.
Liam Daish named an unchanged line-up and, as ever in a Fleet match, the action came thick, fast and early. Barely five minutes were on the clock when Ben Nunn’s free kick found its way through to Wayne Gray and he fired past Preston Edwards.
Fleet were restricted to a pot-shot from a free-kick in the opening 20 minutes as their midfield found it hard to break Chelmsford’s fluid movement and the home side extended their lead on 21 minutes when ex-Fleet playmaker John Martin played a pass out right to Gray who somehow fired home from a tricky angle as everyone else in the ground simply stood and admired it.
With City still making most of the running, Fleet grabbed a lifeline six minutes later. Marwa was felled 20 yards out and Duncan struck a sweet shot from the free kick with his left foot that flew past former Fleet goalkeeper James Pullen.
Gareth Williams thought he had a shout for a penalty but it would have been harsh on the home side who themselves thought they had a better claim on 32 minutes when danger man Ricky Modeste was clattered by Paul Lorraine but the referee ruled the offence had occurred outside the box. From that free-kick, Matt Lock almost drilled home a rebound but Edwards made a great save to force a corner.
Sensing a path back into the game, Fleet started quickly after the break and within 8 minutes had not only got an equaliser, but also a clear sight of three points. Willock got on the end of a long ball from Ram Marwa but Sami El-Abd intervened inside the box, the referee deemed it illegally so, and gave the City player his marching orders. Carew stepped up to blast home another confident penalty as his shot stayed clear of Pullen’s dive.
Daish responded by introducing Tom Phipp for Conor Okus and the Fleet youngster was straight into the action, combining with Willock to set up Marwa for a shot that flew just wide of the post. Willock twice went close with efforts as Fleet probed for a winner and it came 12 minutes from time. Substitute Jacob Erskine and Phipp created a nice move between them and as Phipp raced through, he laid the ball off for Carew down the right and he fired home through a crowd of bodies to send Fleet fans into raptures.
City couldn’t find another gear though they had a couple of forays forward and the Fleet celebration at the final whistle said everything. Another difficult games awaits on Tuesday against Woking, a side who haven’t dropped a point or even conceded a goal in six games. But given Chelmsford’s impressive home record before today, the Fleet in their current mood will not be fazed.
TEAM: Edwards, Howe, Duncan, Okus (Phipp 66), Easton, Lorraine, Caew, Marwa, Willock, Shakes (Erskine 75), Williams. Subs not used: Hawkes, Pooley, Sherlock
Ashley Carew was man of the match against Lewes. Vote for today’s here.