Strike one to the Fleet!

Chris McPhee scores two penalties as Fleet take a two-goal advantage into the second leg…



EBBSFLEET UNITED 3-1 ALDERSHOT TOWN

Report by Ed Miller

To say this semi-final was a daunting task for the Fleet was
an understatement but Liam Daish has clearly instilled in his side a belief and
determination that is capable of moving even the greatest obstacle. Coming off
the back off an impressive away win at Torquay that should all but wrap up the
league title for today?s visitors, Aldershot were always going to be a tough
nut to crack.

Yet Daish wasn?t afraid to again change his side around,
raising eyebrows from supporters as Mark Ricketts dropped to the bench, Chris
McPhee took over the right-back berth and Luke Moore was reinstated on the
right side of midfield at George Purcell?s expense, John Akinde reclaiming his
place alongside Chukki Eribenne up front.

And right from the off the Fleet set about their visitors
with an intent borne of self-belief, with former Aldershot loanee McPhee in the
thick of the action sending a fourth-minute header from a corner just wide of
the post. Just two minutes later and McPhee was again involved in the build-up
as a ball over the top found Eribenne in space and he outpaced the Shots
defence only to tumble on the edge of the box as Dave Winfield upended him at
the second attempt.

There was a suggestion that the initial challenge may have
been on the line but the Shots defenders didn?t disagree too vehemently given
their relief that Winfield was only booked when most in the ground were waiting
for a red card. McPhee kept his head with the spot kick, blasting high into the
net beyond Nikki Bull.

The early setback failed to spark a surprisingly lacklustre Aldershot into
action and the Fleet took heart at their dominance of possession, camping in
the visitors? half as they pressed for a second. Stacy Long and Akinde were
combining well to unsettle the opposition and Winfield received a second
ticking-off from referee Whitestone on 25 minutes following a push on Michael
Bostwick.

Seconds later and Long was only a whisker away from
extending the lead when he twisted Anthony Charles inside-out and cut inside
from the left to curl a decent shot just wide of Bull?s far post. With the
pressure on the Shots defence relentless, Eribenne contrived to blast a 33rd
minute shot over the bar and Akinde twice used his bulk to get in front of his
marker but on both occasions couldn?t quite fashion a shot. Aldershot’s only effort was thwarted after an excellent interception by Paul McCarthy in the penalty area as Danny Hylton squared up to get a foot to Louis Soares’ cross.

But Akinde did get a break on 37 minutes when he pounced on
a ball from Neil Barrett inside the penalty area and as he threatened to get
the better of Charles, the Aldershot defender tugged his shirt and bundled him
to the ground. Again the home crowd howled for a red card as Charles was last
man but again the referee produced only a yellow, presumably judging that
despite a central position, Akinde?s angled run was away from goal. Once again,
however, the home crowd?s frustrations were calmed by a solid McPhee penalty as
he blasted his second of the afternoon down the middle and high into the net.

The Fleet were almost sorry to hear the half-time whistle
and could have been three in front following a goalmouth scramble where Akinde,
Eribenne, Barrett and Long all had efforts cleared or hacked away following
good work by Moore down the right.

Aldershot manager Gary Waddock had clearly taken a leaf from the Jose Mourinho
school of tactics as the second-half began, introducing all three of his
substitutes in one fell swoop and would probably have removed more than the
statutory three had he been given the option such was Aldershot?s powder-puff
efforts of the first 45 minutes.

Yet it seemed the Fleet were going to carry on where they
left off as the livewire Eribenne took only a few minutes to ruffle the Shots
defence again as he latched on to Long?s through ball and sent a rising shot
just past the upright. Long did the same himself

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