SMITH AND SLATTER SEND FLEET INTO SETANTA SHIELD SEMI-FINAL…
CRAWLEY TOWN 1-2 EBBSFLEET UNITED
Crawley’s abysmal record against the Fleet continued as they slumped to a home defeat against a Fleet side fielding two PASE players, with another five on the bench, and debutant Luis Cumbers, on loan from Gillingham.
In this long-delayed quarter-final tie, it was the home side who started the better – to be expected given the first-teamers throughout Crawley’s XI. And they opened the scoring after half an hour when the tricky Michael Malcolm turned inside the box to create space for Fleet nemesis of old Lewis Killeen who burst through the defence to slot home from close range.
It was Malcolm who almost put the tie beyond the Fleet six minutes from half time when he lobbed the ball over Sam Mott but the young Fleet keeper was equal to it and did very well to tip it over the bar.
The Fleet almost got themselves back into the game four minutes after the restart when Matthew Judge and Luis Cumbers played a crafty one-two, with Cumbers’ firing off a low shot that stretched goalkeeper Simon Rayner.
PASE striker Ryan Cole was introduced for Matthew Judge on 65 minutes and two minutes later his side were level. Another PASE player, Michael West, floated in a fine cross from a corner and James Smith rose at the far post to head home.
With young Chris Henry playing well in defence and gaining decent experience alongside a rejuvenated Paul McCarthy, Smith and Dean Pooley, Crawley pressed but couldn’t find a way through. This gave the Fleet the opportunity to complete their second late comeback of the season at Broadfield five minutes from time, George Purcell crossing to find the diving Danny Slatter in a perfect position.
Four minutes of injury time wasn’t enough for the home side and the Fleet advance to their second semi-final of the season which will take place at Stonebridge Road next Thursday (March 26) against Forest Green.
TEAM: Mott, Pooley, Henry, Smith, McCarthy, Slatter, West, Purcell, Shakes, Cumbers, Judge (Cole 65). Subs not used: French, Callender, Turbine, Springett.