The Kent combatants shared the honours in this New Year derby as a hectic and at times end-to-end affair somehow ended blank. Fleet rattled the crossbar in the second-half while Dartford saw chances twice cleared off the line.
But it was a fair result in the end as both sides got back on to the pitch after nearly two weeks without a game.
Fleet made five changes from the FA Trophy game at Dagenham with Jordan Holmes, Josh Payne, Sefa Kahraman, Jake Goodman and Michael West returning, several of those forced on the manager due to availability issues and minor injuries according to Dennis Kutrieb pre-match.
Further injuries were added to the manager’s concerns with almost the first kick of the game when Lee Martin pulled up following a short burst forward from midfield. He tried to soldier on but within four minutes had to be replaced wide left by James Dobson.
Fleet were at risk of losing another when Jake Goodman and Chris Dickson clashed heads in the centre circle but the defender was able to get back on his feet and carry on.
The visitors looked like the rest had done them good over Christmas as they attacked with purpose and confidence, Bobby-Joe Taylor ending a lively move down the right by Ben Chapman and West with a shot over the bar.
Fleet continued to move forward with purpose down the right flank and Chapman again combined with West who headed over on 10 minutes.
Dartford appeared a little rusty early on but they always looked capable on the break and one such move 12 minutes in meant Jordan Holmes had to be off his line sharpish to block Chris Dickson’s run on the edge of the box.
And the home side grew into the game, requiring another important intervention by the Fleet, this time by Taylor, as Dickson broke from an errant pass and supplied Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong whose run into the box should have at least resulted in a shot on goal.
Dartford goalkeeper Craig King was called into action in the 19th minute when Connor Essam drifted away from Bingham and the Fleet No.9 was able to turn and shoot on target from 18 yards.
Dobson fired over a couple of crosses and Bingham almost got on the end of two efforts, one to his head, the other to feet. Another Dobson delivery from the left was helped on by Chapman to West on the right-hand edge of the box but West couldn’t repeat his Princes Park heroics of 10 years ago, stabbing an effort off target.
The Darts continued to enjoy their best chances on the break and Holmes and Taylor got into a spot of bother when the lively Dickson squeezed into space and his shot was eventually steered to safety by Taylor.
Dickson wasn’t far off with a header that dipped wide of Holmes’ far post and before that new signing Nassim L’Ghoul had claimed a penalty after tumbling beneath a Paxman challenge but the referee remained unimpressed.
And Fleet closed out the first period in the Dartford half, Bingham flicking on Tobi Adebayo-Rowling’s cross and Dobson’s follow-up effort blocked for a corner. Bingham had a half-chance right on the whistle as well, surging forward on to a pass but King was out quickly to thwart him.
The Darts made a change at half-time, bringing off midfielder David Ijaha who had been booked for felling Chapman in the first period.
And like that first half, Fleet had to make a change almost immediately, Goodman limping off to be replaced by Mekki.
That changed the shape of things, with Chapman slotting in alongside Sefa Kahraman and having to get used to the movement and physical presence of Dickson.
That perhaps unnerved the visitors for a short spell as they worked their way into the new setup but Chapman performed well in the unaccustomed role as the pace of the game gradually intensified.
Bingham saw a couple of good runs and opportunities closed off by some organised Dartford defending while Taylor was on hand to mop up at the back for the Fleet.
The former Dover left-back was thankful on 56 minutes, however, when he accidentally sliced a clearance back along the face of goal. It dropped kindly for Jack Barham who momentarily had sight of goal before he was closed down by Adebayo-Rowling and Chapman.
Fleet’s best chance arrived on the hour mark when Payne whipped in an excellent corner that may have been helped on at the near post by a teammate but either way, it caused Dartford some anguish as it rattled the crossbar and pinged around the six-yard box.
That signalled a good little spell for the visitors and a swift attack down the right with Mekki and Adebayo-Rowling set West up but he fired over.
Dartford’s best moments of the game came in the last 20 minutes as they threw on Elliott Romain. And they could have taken the lead on 73 minutes when Dickson managed to claw the ball free of Holmes’ attention. He sent a shot goalwards and Chapman had to be alert to fire that one off the line.
Within five minutes, it was a similar scenario. A free-kick from the left soared to the back post where former Fleet skipper Tom Bonner rose to plant a header on target. It went past Holmes but Taylor did ever so well to head it clear.
Back came the Fleet in a pulsating, end-to-end final 10 minutes. Mekki found himself with no support as he won a 50/50 in midfield and so tried his luck from distance. It was a crisp strike that King could only parry towards Grant but the Dartford goalkeeper smothered the follow-up effort.
Mekki saw another shot deflected behind for a corner as Fleet racked up a few set pieces before Dartford stormed back with a couple of their own. With three minutes left, Holmes got a touch at a stretch on one free-kick to push it clear and then a second Dartford attack caused consternation in the Fleet box before the ball was somehow sent clear. Taylor’s one-on-one with L’Ghoul produced the winger’s second penalty claim but that too was denied.
Dickson had a shot in the net moments later but that was offside before the last real opportunity fell Fleet’s way in stoppage time. It was a quick-thinking and clever exchange between Bingham and Grant that ended with the substitute driving through on goal only to be denied by King’s dive at his feet.
EUFC: Holmes, Adebayo-Rowling, Taylor, Kahraman, Goodman (Mekki 47), Payne, Chapman, Paxman, West (Grant 64), Martin (Dobson 4), Bingham. Subs not used: Wood, Hadler
DFC: King, Wynter, Braham-Barrett, Bonner, Essam, Ijaha (Barnum-Bobb 46), Husin, L’Ghoul, Berkeley-Agyepong, Dickson, Barham (Romain 70). Subs not used: Marsh-Brown, Allen, Hill