The Fleet advanced into the Kent Senior Cup semi-finals with a convincing victory over neighbours Dartford…
EBBSFLEET UNITED 4-1 DARTFORD
Fielding a surprisingly strong side in tonight’s Kent Senior Cup tie, the Fleet eventually made their higher status tell as they put Dartford to the sword in a powerful second-half display that kept Liam Daish’s men on course for success on four fronts. The Darts, backed by a hefty contingent of 400-500 fans, fielded only three players from their weekend victory over Arlesey while Daish kept faith with half of the team that overcame Burton on Saturday as well as handing a start to long-term absentee Gary MacDonald.
The Fleet drew first blood inside the first five minutes when Chukki Eribenne got goal-side of Tommy Osborne to plant a header against the foot of the post but nobody could follow up to finish. It was a costly miss as the Darts, buoyant in the opening exchanges, went one better on 11 minutes. Appropriately it was their No.11 Phil Williams who did the damage, running through the Fleet defence and as Sacha Opinel intervened, the ball looped towards goal and Williams got another touch that was enough to drop it over a stranded Sam Mott and into the net.
Dartford drew encouragement and had another two efforts as they threatened to up the pressure, Junior Kadi’s low shot showing promise and Luke May almost finding a way through but James Smith was on hand to bustle him clear. Fleet were slow to step up a gear but Liam Coleman and Eribenne looked the main threat, the latter taking advantage of a Tony Kessell error to smash an effort into the side netting, while the ever-dangerous George Purcell loosed a dipping shot over Dartford’s crossbar. But it was Coleman who hauled the Fleet back to level terms on 32 minutes after he jinked inside two defenders, outpaced another and sent a fine shot past Kessell from 15 yards.
Where the Fleet lacked a certain fluidity in the first half, they were more of a well-oiled machine in the second. And they get off to the perfect start when Raphael Nade rose unmarked to head home Coleman’s corner with a minute of the second half gone. And with Purcell by now enjoying a roaming role and tormenting the Darts’ full backs, the third goal looked like it was only a matter of time. Sure enough on the hour mark, Eribenne sped through the Darts defence to meet a ball over the top and the result never looked in doubt as he rasped a clinical shot past Kessell.
Dartford found the odd opportunity to get forward but the Fleet were looking dominant with trialist Nathan Simpson slotting into left back as Sacha Opinel went into the centre of defence. Coleman should have made the margin greater on 77 minutes when he somehow ballooned Purcell’s inch-perfect pass over the bar, but Eribenne rounded things off four minutes later with a low shot that Kessell failed to reach. Man-of-the-match Purcell almost capped an exciting performance with a fifth when a powerful run and shot reminiscent of his goal against Stafford was well met by the fingertips of Kessell.
In tonight’s other KSC fixture, holders Bromley beat Tonbridge 4-2 and join the Fleet, Margate and Cray Wanderers in the draw for the semi-finals.
Team: Mott, Ricketts, Opinel, MacDonald (Simpson 64), Smith, Barrett (Maskell 82), Bostwick (Stubbs 82), Coleman, Purcell, Eribenne, Nade. Subs not used: Cronin, McPhee.