Concord Rangers 1-2 Fleet

The Fleet made it five wins from five to start the season as they flew out of the blocks at Concord and despite the final close scoreline, could easily have added a few more to the two first-half goals.

It was two of Dennis Kutrieb’s replacements who were on the scoresheet, adding two more different names to the already long list of individual scorers so far this season.

With one eye on Monday and keeping the squad fresh, there were five changes for the Fleet as out went Luke O’Neill, Joe Martin, Rakish Bingham, Greg Cundle and Christian N’Guessan to be replaced by Sido Jombati, Ben Chapman, Shaq Coulthirst and making their first appearances of the season Kieran Monlouis and – against his former club – Franklin Domi.

A slow start came to life on five minutes when Josh Wright and Ryan Blackman tangled in midfield and the referee played an advantage allowing Ricky Modeste to curl an effort past the upright. But that was really all the daylight Concord were allowed in front of goal as the Fleet took full control from then on.

And the visitors got off the mark as 10 minutes rolled around, Chapman delivering a well-flighted cross from the left and as a flat-footed Concord defence stood off, Coulthirst was first to the ball, running into the six-yard box to head it over the line.

Fleet had the ball in the net again six minutes later when Omari Sterling’s shot was parried by Melvin Minter and Dominic Poleon struck home but the flag ruled that one out. Moments later Concord’s best chance came courtesy of a set-piece when free-kick specialist Danny Green sent a fine shot on target but Mark Cousins was down well to it.

The home side were made to rue that miss as Fleet extended their lead on 18 minutes. It came from the next attack after Concord’s free-kick, Poleon moving quickly wide and upfield to get on the end of Craig Tanner’s forward ball and with the yellow shirts struggling to close ranks, his cross into the middle was left by Coulthirst and eagerly gobbled up by the onrushing Monlouis for 2-0.

Coulthirst was close to his second and Fleet’s third on 24 minutes, good work from Sterling in a quick exchange of passes on the edge of the box finding the goalscorer who nudged the ball along the byline and just past the far post.

Coulthirst enjoyed an all-action first-half but might have had his time cut short by Blackman’s somewhat tasty challenge seven minutes before the break, the midfielder catching the Fleet striker in the centre-circle but escaping with a caution.

Sterling wasn’t far off with a run from the right and a shot that struck the base of goal and side netting but with a 2-0 lead and in full control of proceedings, Fleet didn’t over-exert themselves heading into the break and the final moments were fairly sedate.

Shaq Coulthirst capped a strong first-half performance with the opening goal

Concord brought James Blanchfield on at the break and he sent a low shot easing just past Cousins’ far post in the first attack after kick-off. Chapman then appealed for a penalty when he went down under an Aron Pollock challenge and fired across Concord’s bows on 53 minutes, his shot getting past Minter but skipping wide of the far post.

Concord enjoyed their best spell of possession leading up to the hour mark but they couldn’t really find much to hurt the Fleet, with Cousins not tested and Fleet’s defence tight on Modeste, who got little change out of Domi, and Ben Williamson.

Bingham’s introduction on 65 minutes almost sparked immediate third-goal celebrations. A superb pass from Craig Tanner through to Chapman opened up the yellow shirts and Fleet’s player of the year slipped the ball through to Bingham who was somehow thwarted in the six-yard box.

And Bingham was left holding his head again when a strong run down the line by Monlouis saw another cross, this time from the right and the No.9 dived into the chance but again Concord cleared from beneath him.

That third goal just wouldn’t come as Bingham found Sterling through the middle and his pass on to substitute Toby Edser was sent inches wide of the post with Minter beaten once more. Sterling and Coulthirst then exchanged passes in the box, Sterling getting round Minter but unable to convert, instead his effort sent out for a corner. And in the final minute, Coulthirst made it past a defender and swung a leg at the target, again the ball just refusing to cross the line as Fleet fans awaited that stubborn third goal to seal the game.

In fact, it was Concord who found the target and although that ruined Fleet’s chances of a clean sheet, it was a superb shot that left nobody to blame in a teal shirt. Substitute Ben Search picked up the ball 30 yards out and he smashed home a long-range piledriver in time added on that cannoned in off the post.

There was no time for Concord to mount a last-ditch onslaught for a point and Fleet were good value for their fifth win on a busy weekend and quick turnaround ahead of the visit of Dover this Bank Holiday Monday.

EUFC: Cousins, Domi, Solly (O’Neill 72), Jombati, Wright, Monlouis, Chapman, Sterling, Tanner (Edser 78), Coulthirst, Poleon (Bingham 65). Subs: Cundle, McQueen
CRFC: Minter, Popo, Ramsay (Search 62), Pollock, Perkins, Blackman, Williamson, Green, Kyei (Blanchfield 46), Davies, Modeste. Subs: Theobalds, Carter, Tuansaam
Attendace: 556

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