Fleet and Chelmsford will have to do it all again as City became the first side to stop Daryl McMahon’s team scoring this season.
In a fairly mundane stalemate that lacked the traditional cup-tie urgency, Fleet bossed the first-half but were equalled in the second half, with neither side having much in the way of nailed-on goalscoring chances – as the final scoreline suggested.
McMahon drafted in Jonathan Miles for his debut in goal, while Robbie Willmott, Anthony Acheampong and Adam Cunnington were also in the starting line-up. Michael West was also included ahead of Danny Haynes, who pulled up in the pre-match warm-up, meaning Casey Johnson had to be plucked from the terraces to make up the numbers among the substitutes.
It was the home side who began with greater purpose when Lee Sawyer burst into space to the right of the box and crossed low to the near post where a stooping Luke Daley directed a header but it was deflected for a corner.
Fleet took a little while to settle and were forced to wait while stand-in skipper Dean Rance received treatement for an injury; he returned to the action with a bandage wrapped around his head. But once into their rhythm, Fleet passed it around well and pinned the Clarets inside their own half for long periods.
Christian Dibble turned Jordan Parkes’ header around the post for a corner as the visitors forced numerous set pieces in the first half. From another corner, Chelmsford were all at sea and as the ball pinged around the box, Rance launched a low shot that cannoned off Mark Haines.
Matt Fish floated a cross to the far post on 25 minutes that Willmott caught on the volley, a decent attempt but perhaps a little ambitious and it cleared the bar.
When City did attack, they caused a few problems and when Clark ran into Tomi Adeloye as both chased a ball in the box, there were vociferous shouts from the Chelmsford end, but the referee was unmoved. Fleet continued to press, however, with John Paul Kissock’s typical busy performance in the middle, together with Rance’s steady distribution from deep, keeping a chokehold on the Chelmsford midfield.
And the visitors had a great chance to open the scoring four minutes before half-time when a decent forward move saw Willmott create space down the right and cross into West who, on the half-turn, snapped a low shot just wide of the post.
Acheampong of all people almost opened Chelmsford up again as he strolled forward from defence to the opposite corner, riding numerous challenges, before somehow getting a high cross away that was just a little too much for Cunnington to bring down.
If the first half belonged to the Fleet, City were much more determined to finish the tie on home soil in the second. They forced three corner in the opening minutes and Marvel Ekpiteta’s shot was on target before it was blocked by Acheampong.
His brother, Marvin Ekpiteta was next to get forward, outwitting the Fleet defence to send in a low cross that had to be hacked clear from the six-yard box but on that occasion the offside flag ruled in the visitors’ favour.
City continued to stifle Fleet’s forward movement and the rest of the half was something of a non-event in terms of chances, though Miles had to be alert and commanding to take down several high crosses pumped into his area. McMahon shuffled his pack, bringing Matt Godden and Danny Kedwell into play, and the former almost sneaked in at the far post from a Parkes free-kick. Godden also fired over after a good break from Willmott and Joe Howe but that was the sum total of excitement as far as Fleet fans were concerned.
At the other end, the impressive Adeloye robbed Acheampong on the edge of the box, but the Fleet defender recovered to clear and the game petered out to an increasingly inevitable replay on Tuesday night, by which time the opponents for the third qualifying round will be known.
EUFC: Miles, Fish, Howe, Willmott, Clark, Acheampong, Rance, Parkes, Cunnington (Kedwell 67), West (Godden 61), Kissock. Subs not used: Bonner, Shields, Tracey, Hughes, Johnson
CCFC: Dibble, Haines, Marvel Ekpiteta, Hughes, Marvin Ekipeta, McAuley, Daley, Sawyer (Morgan 70), Graham, Adeloye, Girdlestone. Subs not used: Vaughan, Gosling, Henry, Pearce, Lewis