EBBSFLEET UNITED 1-2 MILLWALL : FLEET SUCCUMB IN TOUGH ENCOUNTER…
The Fleet’s penultimate pre-season friendly ended in disappointment in terms of the result but Liam Daish will have been pleased with his side’s sharpness and application ? especially the contrast evident since the Charlton mauling almost three weeks ago. Kenny Jackett’s League One side proved a far more resilient outfit than that which slumped away from Stonebridge Road last season on the back of a 2-0 defeat, though the Fleet gave as good as they got in a game in which they were rarely outclassed.
Yet it looked as if that’s just what might happen as the early exchanges brought back memories of the 6-0 thrashing by Charlton. The Lions went ahead inside two minutes when Ryan Smith’s pass split the Fleet defence and Chris Hackett powered shot into the corner beyond Lance Cronin. The visitors continued to press after that and former Gillingham striker Neil Harris almost guided the ball through for Smith to finish, while Scott Barron’s hot shot was fortunately wide of Cronin’s post.
But the Fleet found themselves on level terms on 31 minutes with what seems to be fast becoming the signature Neil Barrett goal, as the former Portsmouth midfielder let fly with a low shot from outside the box that wrong-footed Millwall goalkeeper Pidgeley. The goal buoyed the home side and Michael Gash impressed with some good hold-up play while James Smith could have edged his side in front with a strong header that Pidgeley proved equal to.
John Akinde’s welcome return in the second half gave the Fleet some extra power up front, though they lacked Stacy Long’s creativity to provide ammunition for the front line. Gash lobbed Pidgeley after a long ball from Darius Charles but it scaled the crossbar and sailed to safety and then it was Millwall who got themselves in front on 53 minutes, Gary Bowes taking advantage of a poor headed clearance and guiding a shot past Cronin. The Millwall youngster was at the heart of much that was good about the visitors’ forward play and Cronin had to be alert on several occasions as Bowes and Harris threatened to extend the scoreline.
Substitute Long had a couple of potshots turned round the post, Craig Stone and Akinde both troubled the Millwall back line with shots and an Akinde-Ricky Shakes combination came closest to scoring with an effort scuffed away from danger at the last minute as the ball bounced around the penalty area. There were also appearances for Dean Pooley, introduced on the hour mark in place of Mark Ricketts, as well as a brief cameo for highly-rated PASE striker Kwesi Appiah, trialist Jake Richardson, who according to some terrace gossip is the son of former Arsenal and Everton midfielder Kevin Richardson. Ex-Watford, Lincoln and Chester midfielder Jamie Hand also featured.
TEAM: Cronin, Ricketts (Pooley 60), Opinel, Stone, Smith, Charles,
Shakes (Richardson 87), Barrett (Hand), Gash (Appiah 87), Moore
(Akinde 46), Purcell (Long 65). Subs not used: Mott, Hawkins,