Ten-man Oxford hold on against a Fleet side playing to impress.
OXFORD UNITED 0-0 EBBSFLEET UNITED
In front of numerous old faces – as well as some new ones – the Fleet
came away from Oxfordshire with a creditable draw but one that could
have been worth so much more after the 79th minute sending off of Rob
Liam Daish was forced to deploy Peter Hawkins on the left in place of
suspended Sacha Opinel while Mark Ricketts returned to the starting XI
and Chris McPhee moved into midfield to make up the numbers after Neil
Barrett’s absence. The home side’s support had dwindled considerably
since this same fixture back in February and it was the Fleet fans,
beneath the scrutiny of the national media, who started in better
voice. And they could have had something to sing about as early as the
seventh minute when Luke Moore’s cross gave Chukki Eribenne the
opportunity to head home from close range, but Oxford goalkeeper Billy
Turley didn’t have to do much to gather it.
The home side threatened to get into their stride, their chief threat
coming from fleet-footed Yemi Odubade, who stood out in his yellow
boots, and he had a succession of shots that hardly troubled Lance
Cronin, though his running did stretch Hawkins and Paul McCarthy.
However, the Fleet defence looked resolute when under pressure, well
marshalled by McCarthy, with Hawkins growing into his left-sided role
as the game wore on. For their part, the Oxford defence also weren’t
giving much away and the Fleet looked to Stacy Long to provide some
impetus but most of his attempts fell short of a killer ball.
Chris McPhee went into the referee’s book on 22 minutes after
retalitating to a cynical foul by Luke Foster, who was also cautioned,
and the pair continued their bickering over a succession of set pieces
that followed. Bostwick tried his luck with a dipping shot from 25
yards on 34 minutes, but it was Oxford who should have opened the
scoring seconds later, on-loan QPR youngster Kieron St Aimie heading
wide from former Exeter defender Alex Jeannin’s cross. Fleet claimed a
penalty on 40 minutes when Barry Quinn appeared to impede Luke Moore’s
– and the ball’s – progress with a hand, but the half ended all square.
Eribenne had another header off-target early in the second half and
created an opportunity on 53 minutes that should have changed the game.
He charged onto a clearance by the dithering Quinn and burst past the
Oxford defender but was tripped as he bore down on Turley’s goal and
though the ball fell to Luke Moore and the referee initially looked to
have played the advantage, Moore saw his effort blocked. With the game
halted for the foul, the Fleet fans were fully expecting a red card for
Quinn, who had no other defender covering, and were dismayed when a
yellow was shown. Their mood wasn’t improved when a tackle from
Bostwick on Odubade produced another yellow, despite what looked like a
clean take of the ball by the Fleet midfielder.
The home side, perhaps buoyed by the let-off, upped the tempo and
Odubade again missed a decent opportunity on the hour mark, heading
over the bar as Cronin stretched into space. But it was the Fleet’s
England ‘C’ international who kept the visitors in it on 73 minutes
with some lightning reactions, first swooping low to deny Phil
Trainer’s header, and then getting in Eddie Anaclet’s way as the Oxford
man hit the post, the rebound belted wide by the luckless Odubade. What
Cronin could do, his opposite number Turley could also do as he kept
Eribenne’s near-post shot at bay minutes later.
On 79 minutes, Oxford introduced long-term absentee Rob Duffy – Fleet’s
conqueror in February – to much fanfare over the tannoy. He had barely
got into position when he seemed to floor Ricketts and was trotting
back over to the tunnel seconds later after the referee brandished the
red card, much to the delight of the amused Fleet fans. His only kick –
other than on Ricketts – was to smash a water bottle into an
advertising hoarding on his way off.
However, the home side refused to give ground and for five minutes it was they who appeared to have the extra man, with Carl Pettefer finding space to advance into the box and loose off a goalbound shot that Cronin did ever so well to tip round the post. Again, not to be denied the limelight, Turley responded in similar fashion three minutes from time. Excellent build-up play by the Fleet saw Ricketts advance down the right and send a crossfield pass to substitute Geroge Purcell who hared into the box, got behind the defence and looped a cross to the advancing Chris McPhee who shaped up for what seemed certain to be a goal only for Turley to fling himself in harm’s way.
Turley still had time to pluck Stacy Long’s cross from the air and catch James Smith’s header in five minutes of time added-on, but a draw it was and a fair enough reflection of the game… although the referee’s failure to send Quinn for an early bath, along with Duffy’s highly amusing cameo appearance, were the afternoon’s main talking points among the travelling Kent folk and their new MyFC bretheren.
TEAM: Cronin, Ricketts, Hawkins, Smith, McCarthy, Bostwick,
McPhee, Long, Nade (Purcell 70), Eribenne, Moore. Subs not used:
French, Liam Coleman, Maskell, Starkey.