Fleet sneak home in nine-goal thriller

Chukki Eribenne and Mark De Bolla grab two goals apiece as Fleet edge home in a sensational match.



EBBSFLEET UNITED 5-4 KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS

“I‘d have kicked my own granny for a win today,? Liam Daish
said following this afternoon?s game and you can?t help wondering whether
anyone over a certain age would have even been alive after the nerve-wracking
highs and lows of the Fleet?s narrow victory.

Fleet?s shot-shy players turned into goal machines for an
afternoon as the home side ran in 5-4 winners this afternoon at Stonebridge
Road. Kick-off was delayed by half an hour after Kidderminster’s late arrival,
though the visitors still got the benefit of a 20-minute warm-up. That wasn?t
much in evidence, however, as the Fleet started brightly in a bid to silence
their recent critics.

And it didn?t get much brighter than an early goal as Raphael Nade hared down
the right wing on three minutes and was hauled back at the third attempt by the
bulky form of Mark Creighton. Stacy Long sent in the resulting free-kick and
Chukki Eribenne popped up in the centre of the penalty area to head home. It
looked so easy, one wondered how the Fleet had any problems scoring.

Three minutes later and there was more drama as Danny Slatter went down under a
challenge and couldn?t continue, Mark DeBolla coming on his place.
Kidderminster?s Dean Bennett had a good chance on eight minutes to restore
parity, but couldn?t quite connect with his shot and Lance Cronin picked up the
pieces.

But the Fleet refused to allow Harriers to get a foothold in the game and on 12
minutes, Stacy Long found himself in space down the left, turned inside his
defender and had acres of space to aim at as goalkeeper Dean Coleman raced out.
His shot had almost crossed the line when DeBolla came racing in to make sure
of things and the Fleet were two goals to the good.

Kidderminster attempted to step up the pace and Creighton,
always a danger at set pieces, headed a corner against the bar on 17 minutes.
Yet the Fleet rarely looked troubled, and when the creative Russell Penn and
the strong-running Justin Richards did get through, they found the steadfast
Sacha Opinel throwing himself in front of anything and everything.

Fleet had a host of chances to improve their lead, Bostwick
trying from distance and Chris McPhee somehow spilling a close-range shot wide
of the post after meeting a Long cross. Eribenne was proving a constant menace
and was linking well with Nade who was constantly making space for himself down
the right.

Indeed Eribenne it was who provided the first half?s finest moment in its
closing seconds, latching onto a Nade header and outmuscling the close attentions
of Creighton and Gavin Hurren before burying a superb shot past Coleman which
left the net bulging.

Three-nil and a first-half possession statistic of 60-40 in
the Fleet?s favour meant the second-half should have been a mere formality and
it looked like turning out that way as Fleet picked up where they left off,
with Long shooting over the bar on 47 minutes and Eribenne getting over-excited
about a hat-trick on 53 minutes and doing the same from 12 yards out.

For 10 minutes, Harriers looked miserable and it resembled a practice match for
a time until the visitors were handed a lifeline on 58 minutes. A speculative
ball was sent across the Fleet area from the right and Warren Goodhind got in
the way, sending the ball looping against the crossbar and out. The linesman?s
flag went up to indicate the ball had crossed the line, much to Liam Daish?s
disgust, and the referee gave the goal.

Any doubts among the home faithful were soon dispelled, as
the Fleet provided a sublime moment of skill to give Mark DeBolla the finest
goal we?ve seen this season on the hour mark. Long fed Eribenne on the edge of
the area and as the Fleet number 10 lined up for the shot, he back-heeled the
ball into the advancing DeBolla?s path. DeBolla looked up, spotted a gap and
curled an exquisitely placed shot through a crowd of players, low to Coleman?s
right.

Kidderminster posted their attentions immediately, Constable
hitting the bar with a header, and Creighton repeating the feat a minute later.
Eribenne and Nade both had chances to make it 5-1 shortly afterwards but then a
mad five minutes ensued.

First, James Constable, who had looked relatively quiet to
that point, received Richards? pass after the former Woking hitman had
intercepted Goodhind?s fumble and with space to pick a shot, Constable gave Cronin
no chance.

Five minutes later, it happened again, this time substitute
Michael McGrath making the most of space down the left, and setting up Constable
for a second time, and he beat Cronin from close range.

With the Fleet on the rack, their concise passing game went
to the wall and Richards could have equalised on 79 minutes but hit his shot at
Cronin. Peter Hawkins received a bizarre caution on 81 minutes as Long dwelt
too long on a free-kick and as he walked away and Hawkins shaped to take the
kick, the referee booked him for time-wasting!

Harriers had another superb chance on 84 minutes, Michael
Blackwood bundling a shot into the side netting from Richards? cross, before
Richards himself threatened to carve a way through, only to be halted by
Hawkins. As Harriers? players appealed for handball against Hawkins, Fleet
cleared the ball upfield to a clearly tiring Nade. The Frenchman appeared to
lack the energy to take it on himself and crossed for substitute and debutante Luke
Coleman (left) who rifled a fantastic volley home from 16 yards with the calmness of a
veteran striker.

With four minutes added on, the jubilant Fleet fans could
see some light at the end of tunnel, and Nade should have made it six but
ballooned over from eight yards. And yet still there was time for this mad
afternoon to conjure another drama, as Constable completed a second-half
hat-trick, tucking home Jeff Kenna?s corner in the dying seconds. It wasn?t
enough, however, and despite an immense fightback, Kidderminster left
empty-handed as a clearly relieved Fleet took the plaudits.


TEAM:
Cronin, Hawkins, Opinel, McCarthy, Goodhind (Liam Coleman), Bostwick, McPhee, Slatter (De Bolla), Long, Nade, Eribenne (Luke Coleman). Subs not used: Mott, Purcell.

Attendance: 812

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