Fleet fired five goals on tonight’s long away trip as manager Dennis Kutrieb described the opening period as the best football his side have played in his tenure as boss.
Dominic Poleon’s sublime hat-trick, bookended by a first goal for Greg Cundle and another from substitute Jack Paxman, made it a worthwhile trip for the large number of away fans among the 441 crowd.
Fleet made four changes from last week’s Emirates FA Cup tie but just the two from the preceding league fixture, with Chris Solly returning from suspension and deployed in a holding midfield role. Josh Gould came back in goal after sitting out the Carshalton game, while Lee Martin and Dominic Poleon also started.
Chippenham began with new signing Garrett Kelly and they looked to catch Fleet with some early long balls and stretch the three men holding the line. The visitors were a little cagey initially as they dealt with that tactic from the home side – Sefa Kahraman and Ben Chapman having to be alert to efforts through the middle – but from 10 minutes, Fleet increasingly ramped up their pace, passing and possession.
A first corner came as Alfie Egan surged forward as he tried to release Poleon, who then got in the way as a neat one-two between Lee Martin and Rakish Bingham came back off him. Egan was involved again as play switched to the right and he launched a low effort towards the six-yard box that was cleared as Keiron Parselle slid in to hook it away.
Lee Martin turned his marker to send a shot over on 15 minutes as the rain fell with increasing volume but the pitch held up well to the weather. It allowed Fleet, attacking downhill, to keep a fast tempo and on 19 minutes they were almost ahead. Cundle drove into the box and as Martin ran on to his effort, goalkeeper Will Henry blocked two shots from the skipper, the ball eventually falling to Egan whose third try was blocked in the box as well.
Poleon was only inches away from meeting Tobi Adebayo-Rowling’s whipped-in cross before Fleet’s pressure finally told on 21 minutes. It was created by Cundle’s quick reactions as Will Richards dwelt too long in clearing his lines and the Fleet wide man was on to him in a flash, fought his way past and advanced to fire past Henry for his first competitive goal for the club.
And the visitors needed only five minutes more to extend that lead to two. A clearance out of defence by Chippenham was mopped up by Solly. He launched it wide to Adebayo-Rowling whose disguised pass released the overlapping Chapman. Poleon met Chapman’s low cross, stretching a leg to force the ball over the line.
Lee Martin was unfortunate to see Solly’s brilliant chip land a little too wide and his shot from an angle went over before the skipper took on Cundle’s drive forwards to feed Bingham, his shot going wide.
Just as Fleet looked like they were going to dominate possession through to half-time, Chippenham found a path back into the game six minutes before the break. A blue shirt intercepted a pass in midfield and Luke Russe’s ball through the middle reached Joe Hanks who had the room but still did well to find the target as he swept a shot beyond Gould.
Lee Martin’s free-kick was headed behind for a corner and Poleon sent a shot just wide of the netting but Fleet couldn’t restore the two-goal cushion as half-time descended.
The rain let up as the teams emerged for the second half but it was a scrappy opening with the referee’s whistle for niggly fouls and a couple of offside flags slowing the pace. One flag denied Poleon from extending the Fleet’s lead straight after the restart when Egan and Bingham got forward to set the top scorer free to fire home – but celebrations were premature.
Chapman did very well to get to an inswinging free-kick as he sprung high to head clear one moment of danger before Fleet began to regain their form of the first half. Chippenham were their own worst enemies at times, passing along their back line to the frustration of home fans, and Lee Martin went close with a shot that bounced up at him but was blocked.
However, the crucial third goal arrived soon after that as the hour-mark ticked by. As Chippenham pressed, Kahraman got a crucial foot to a pass to clear and Poleon picked up the ball in his own half. He raced upfield, brushed off the attentions of two men and coolly positioned himself for a majestic shot from 20 yards for a wonderful solo effort.
He claimed his second hat-trick of the season two minutes later. This time, it was set up by strike partner Bingham who was strong in holding up play before advancing and passing in behind the Chippenham defence for Poleon to pick up and scoop home for 4-1. Bingham might have made it five as confident Fleet propelled down the left by Cundle swung another cross in and the No.9 switched feet to fire just past the post.
Credit to Chippenham, twice they looked dead and buried but they found their way back into the game again on 70 minutes. Another inswinging set-piece provided the opportunity and after a Marlon Jackson header came back off the bar, Chippenham managed to stab a second chance to the far post, Parselle meeting it to arrow it back across goal and into the bottom corner.
The home side enjoyed a little more spring in their step as they sought a grandstand finish, Jackson sending another header on to the woodwork and Ross Stearn might have provided a lifeline but for two crucial Chapman challenges in the Fleet box. And the visitors ended any question of a comeback as Paxman came off the bench to wrap things up. With six minutes left, it was another fine goal for the Fleet as the midfielder’s footwork got the better of a pair of defenders and he guided a low shot through a crowd for the fifth.
That delighted the bench and the fans behind the goal and it was a happy camp that made its way homeward bound with a significant climb back up the table and another mini-break from the League as cup action returns this Saturday.
EUFC: Gould, Chapman, Kahraman, J.Martin, Solly, Adebayo-Rowling, Cundle, Egan (Paxman 73), L.Martin, Bingham (Romain 81), Poleon (Krasniqi 85). Subs: Tanner, Haigh
CTFC: Henry, Kelly, Parselle, Richards, Santos, Jackson, Bunker, Greenslade (Elechi 66), Hanks, Stearn, Russe. Subs: Smedley, Bayeke, Myrie-Williams