Fleet crawl towards play-off zone


John Akinde kick-starts massive win for the Fleet at Broadfield Stadium…


The Fleet became only the third side to triumph at the Broadfield Stadium this season with a performance full of endeavour that saw them close the gap on Cambridge United to six points. Liam Daish gave a surprise start to Raphael Nade, with Michael Bostwick dropped to the bench and though the Fleet started brightly, it was the home side who edged ahead on just three minutes. A long free-kick was cleared by James Smith but only as far as Tyrone Thompson and as he headed the ball beyond the Fleet’s central defenders, dangerman Jamie Cook nipped between them to steer a shot past Lance Cronin.

The reverse rocked the Fleet and defensively they wobbled for a while, with Cook again finding too much space in the box four minutes later, but this time cannoning his shot against Cronin. Fortunately for the visitors, that old head on young shoulders calmed the nerves on 15 minutes. A long ball out of midfield caught the Crawley defence cold and that man John Akinde powered between Glenn Wilson and Paul Watson, shrugging off the latter’s attempted pull-back to strike a precise shot past Ashley Bayes that went in off the post.

Fleet fans breathed a sigh of relief a minute later when Cook’s strike past Cronin was ruled out for offside and thereafter it was the men from Kent who stamped their authority on the match. Chris McPhee had a header off-target from a Stacy Long corner on 18 minutes, Moore shot over from inside the box and Akinde worked a good opening eight minutes later as he prowled down the left wing, but Nade blasted the chance well wide of the post.

But it was Crawley’s defence that proved their own undoing as Wilson twice got himself in a tangle. On 33 minutes, he sliced Sacha Opinel’s cross just over his own bar. From the corner, Long jinked his way into space, crossed wide for Nade who knocked it into Moore’s path. Moore steered the ball wide for McPhee and the former Torquay man’s low cross was diverted by Wilson into his own net. With the Fleet already scenting the victory, they worked hard as a unit and squeezed the life out of Crawley’s attacking intentions and it was no surprise that the game lost some of its pace as a result. Akinde found himself with a caution on the stroke of half-time as he blocked Wilson with a high arm, but it seemed harsh given Wilson had run into him… not that it seemed that way to a vociferous Crawley bench yards from the incident.

Crawley boss Steve Evans attempted to change things at half-time, bringing on Bradley Thomas for Watson but, if anything, the Fleet merely stifled the home side with greater gusto. Cronin was left with little to do until the hour mark when he was forced to speed out of his goal and deliver a tackle on Dannie Bulman that any defender would have been proud of.

On 66 minutes, Crawley again had a good opportunity when substitute Jon-Paul Pitman outfoxed two Fleet defenders and sent in a teasing cross that McCarthy did very well to steer away. There was a penalty shout on 73 minutes when Cook tangled with Opinel and fell to earth as the Frenchman challenged him but the referee waved away Cook’s protests. Former Crawley defender Opinel’s protests against Cook’s collapse, however, earned him the Fleet’s second yellow card of the game.

Another half-chance came Crawley’s way two minutes later, Kevin James low cross skimming into the six-yard box where had Mark Ricketts got a touch as he raced in to defend, it would likely have resulted in the evening’s second own goal. That own-goal theme was still very much in defenders’ minds on 83 minutes when Opinel beat James to a high, looping cross but was relieved to see it clear Cronin’s crossbar.

While Crawley snatched at the majority of chances in the second half, the Fleet rarely looked troubled and had Long’s presence of mind not deserted him twice in quick succession when in good positions, could have extended their lead. Barrett also had a shot which fizzed over the crossbar. Akinde constantly proved a handful for Wilson and almost grabbed a second goal when he got behind the Crawley defence but saw his low effort roll past the post with nobody on the other end to finish it.

Crawley almost had the last laugh deep into injury time with arguably their best chance of the match. Magno Vieira played a diagonal ball which cut the Fleet defence in two and Mustapha Carayol’s panic-inducing volley was surely goalbound but for substitute Bostwick’s intervention which somehow diverted the ball over the bar. It was the last action in a highly charged game and a massive victory for the Fleet as they head towards yet another crunch game at Plainmoor on Saturday.

Cronin, Ricketts, Opinel, Smith, McCarthy, Barrett, McPhee, Long (Bull 88), Moore (Bostwick 65), Akinde, Nade (Eribenne 84). Subs: French, Purcell.



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Ed Miller

Ed Miller

Ed Miller has been Ebbsfleet United's communications manager and programme editor since 2014 and responsible for the club website since 2007. Contact him on ed.miller@eufc.co.uk
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