Eastbourne Borough were 20 minutes away from their first ever victory over the Fleet until Kenny Clark rescued a point for the visitors with his first goal for the club. Fleet had earlier seen a goal disallowed when Charlie Sheringham’s effort was originally allowed to stand by the referee until consultation with his assistant changed his mind.
Steve Brown made just one change, Chris Sessegnon coming in on the right of defence so that Shane Huke could move inside to cover for the suspended Anthony Acheampong.
The match began at a frenetic pace, with Eastbourne forcing a corner straight off after Simon Johnson’s effort cannoned off Shane Huke. From that set piece, Anthony Cook was set free and rocketed down the full length of the left side of the pitch. His cross into Brendan Kiernan, who had outpaced his marker on the other side, was a decent one and Kiernan’s shot was somehow blocked and put over the bar.
Fleet pressed forwards with Dean Rance keeping the Boro midfield at bay and Daryl McMahon and Kiernan forced Lewis Carey into saves. The game ebbed and flowed and on the quarter-hour mark, the home side began to mark their territory, Gavin McCallum finding gaps in the Fleet rearguard. On 13 minutes, Richard Pacquette – who initially gave Huke some problems – directed a header down and along the line, unfortunate to see the ball run clear. Three minutes after that, the impressive Frankie Raymond was given too much space to despatch a shot from 25 yards that deflected behind for a corner.
Then it was Fleet to turn the screw once more. Matt Godden’s excellent delivery on 20 minutes saw the ball land at the feet of Sheringham and he turned and fired on target only for Carey to save the blushes of his static defence with a point-blank stop. Sheringham went one better – or at least thought he did – on 29 minutes. It was created by Chris Sessegnon’s quick-thinking when the full back quite expertly robbed Matt Parsons and sent a ball upfield to Godden. The Fleet striker sped down the right, placed a neat ball into the box for Kiernan whose shot seemed destined to go in before Sheringham made sure.
The referee initially indicated that the goal stood but following heated exchanges with home players, he consulted his assistant and promptly disallowed the goal for offside. The assistant referee was back in action minutes later when he flagged Godden for straying offside after being put clean through by Sheringham, while Boro should have made Fleet pay at the other end when Parsons’ cross into McCallum was scuffed past the post.
McCallum had a rather better effort at the beginning of the second half, firing a shot low to Hall’s left, before McMahon won a free-kick 30 yards out and Cook drove it just under the crossbar, from where Carey had to claw it out and tip it over for a corner. Fleet began to pick up the pace and they moved the ball quickly down the left, where Joe Howe and Cook were probing continually for an opening, while Godden lofted a high ball into the six-yard box that Sam Beale stole off Kiernan’s head as he was poised to glance it past Carey.
So it was something of a surprise to see Boro take the lead on 60 minutes with a sweeping break. Simon Johnson picked the ball up 25 yards out and enjoyed some good fortune as it bobbled across the Fleet back line, allowing him to feed McCallum who was able to pick a spot and stab past Brandon Hall from 20 yards, a deflection wrong-footing the Fleet keeper. Johnson then enjoyed some more good fortune as a ricochet bounced kindly for him and he swept the ball out right to Pacquette, who fortunately slipped at the crucial moment and his shot was wayward.
A couple of corners on 70 minutes then dictated the outcome of the match. Fleet lost possession from their own set piece and Pacquette won a corner at the other end that Ian Simpemba headed just wide. But play swung to the other end again and Fleet had another corner, Cook delivering and Clark powering in to head past Carey to haul his side back into the game.
Either side could have won it and credit to both for attempting to. Fleet enjoyed plenty of possession down the left with Howe and Cook getting plenty of joy, overlapping and threatening to unpick Eastbourne at will for a few minutes. Cook sent a delightful lob onto the penalty spot where Sheringham was well-positioned but the Fleet striker seemed to delay, waiting for the ball to drop, and the chance went. Kiernan had a close-range shot turned behind from another Cook pass, before Howe’s excellent run supplied Cook who was only inches from forcing the ball over the line. Godden then robbed Marvin Hamilton wide on the right and crossed for Kiernan who slid in but succeeded in only rolling the ball into the arms of a fortunate Carey.
The home side applied their own pressure in the closing moments and when Shane Huke clattered into Moses Ashikodi, there were vociferous appeals for a red card from the Boro fans. Hall made a save in the dying moments on his goalline as the home side won two late corners before Fleet had one last opportunity from a break but the final ball was behind the strikers and McMahon could only snap at the chance, firing over.
A draw was the right result as 180 minutes of football failed to separate these two sides this season. Fleet fell to third place as some of their rivals again dropped points and all eyes now turn to the visit of in-form Gosport on Tuesday.
TEAM: Hall, Howe, Sessegnon, McMahon, Huke, Clark, Kiernan, Rance, Sheringham, Godden, Cook. Subs not used: Edwards, Palmer, Bricknell, Corcoran, Johnson.