DOUBLE DELIGHT FOR DEADLY DUO AS FLEET LEAVE IT LATE AGAIN TO SNATCH THE POINTS…
CRAWLEY TOWN 1-2 EBBSFLEET UNITED
Whisper it quietly but where once last-minute goals were a cause for anguish, all of a sudden the Fleet seem to be making the scoring of them something of a speciality. Two excellent inidividual strikes from Michael Gash and Luke Moore saw Fleet take a maximum six-point haul from this week’s games, and all courtesy of goals in the closing stages of the match.
For this trip to Broadfield Stadium, Liam Daish brought Stacy Long back into the side at the expense of Karl Murray who didn’t even make the bench, while George Purcell made way for recent signing Matthew Delicate.
As has often been the case in fixtures between these two clubs, things got off to an underhwhelming start with little for either fans or TV viewers to get excited about. Indeed the Fleet took 19 minutes to register a shot on target, Stacy Long’s left-footed effort forcing Crawley goalkeeper Simon Rayner into a save.
Before that neither side had displayed much ambition, Fleet briefly troubling Rayner from a corner early on. New signing Delicate was immediately acquainted with English referees, receiving a booking on 10 minutes for a foul on Jake Wright.
On 31 minutes Luke Moore had a much better opportunity than Long’s earlier effort, his shot from Gash’s pass going just past the post.
But the home side got their noses in front on 33 minutes courtesy of some less-than-sharp Fleet defending. A long goal kick from Rayner saw Steve Fletcher beat Darius Charles to nod the ball forward. This allowed Jean-Paul Pitman to get clear inside the area as Sacha Opinel mistimed his interception and the Crawley striker slotted home past Cronin with an air of nonchalance.
Fleet almost made amends immediately, Delicate peeling away from Wright only to shoot past the upright as Rayner struggled to get across to meet it. The Fleet also had a penalty shout in the last few minutes of the half, Gash twisting and turning inside two Crawley defenders to good effect and his shot looked to be deflected away by Chris Giles’ hand inside the area.
Barrett too could have reduced the arrears on 44 minutes when played through by Stone and his shot from the edge of the box had Rayner diving to palm it round the post.
The Fleet came out with similar purpose in the second half and Long set the tone for later on in the evening with a mazy run into the box but as he cut back the ball into the danger area, no Fleet player was up in support and Michael Malcolm cleared. Both sides were guilty of some rather wild shots on goal, Fletcher blazing over the bar for Crawley and Moore shooting wide of the post.
After that the game got stuck in midfield, with Thomas Pinault calling the shots for Crawley and linking well with the always dangerous Pittman. Purcell’s introduction for debutant Delicate was inevitable on 70 minutes, the new signing having not looked out of place but certainly out of puff by that stage. Purcell set up stall in a wide position, allowing Moore to push up alongside Gash, and the two strikers started to ask questions of a creaking Crawley defence.
First, on 76 minutes, Moore got away from Giles and fired a low shot which was well saved by Rayner. The former Torquay goalkeeper was to the rescue again three minutes later, this time from Gash’s snappy right-foot shot, while he also had to be alert to another effort from Long.
Crawley felt hard done by on 77 minutes when Mark Ricketts robbed substitute James Dayton in the box and as the Crawley player rather theatrically dived tot he floor, a clamour rang out among the home fans but referee Kinseley waved play on.
The Fleet’s pressure was starting to tell and six minutes later, their reward was forthcoming. With his back to goal, 30 yards out, Gash executed a wide turn that took him past Adam Quinn and Pinault and as Giles and James Dayton attempted to challenge him, he struck a shot between them from the edge of the box that flew into the net for a memorable equaliser.
But the Fleet weren’t finished there. A minute from the end of normal time, Moore made room down the left channel and sprinted into space, poking the ball past Giles and turning Wright inside out until the defender slipped, allowing the Fleet number 18 to smash home a rising drive into the top of the net to the delight of the Fleet following behind the goal.
It was enough to elevate Liam Daish and his team into 11th place ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Kettering where another three points would really reignited the Fleet’s season.
TEAM: Cronin, Ricketts, Opinel, Smith, Charles, Barrett, Stone, Long (Slatter 85), Moore, Delicate (Purcell 70), Gash. Subs not used: Mott, Pooley, Ibe.