Luke Moore edges the Fleet ahead to leave struggling Farsley Celtic still deep in relegation trouble…
EBBSFLEET UNITED 3-1 FARSLEY CELTIC
A buoyant second-half performance gave the Fleet their first victory since the end of March to leave struggling Farsley Celtic hovering only a point above the relegation zone.
With the Fleet’s fixture list remaining busy, Liam Daish took the opportunity to rest Stacy Long who has already played 50 games this season and Chris McPhee kept the captain’s armband for his 51st outing of the season. Peter Hawkins replaced the suspended Sacha Opinel at left back while Charley Hearn regained a place in midfield ahead of Michael Bostwick while striker John Akinde was a welcome return from injury.
And Akinde provided the first talking point of the match on 4 minutes when he burst through the Farsley defence and tumbled in the area but the referee deemed his fall to be simulation and produced a yellow card. Akinde was again in the thick of the action four minutes later as he shot wide trying to finish off a good Fleet move after excellent work by Luke Moore down the right.
Neither side appeared to want to take the game by the scruff of the neck after that and little of note happened, with Fleet’s chief outlets coming from Moore down the right and Hearn’s creative but ultimately optimistic efforts in midfield. And it was Farsley who instead took the lead on 25 minutes. A long ball over the top of the Fleet defence by former Accrington winger Rory Prendergast found on-loan striker David McNiven with pace to spare and as he sped beyond James Smith, he lobbed the advancing Lance Cronin who despite frantic back-pedalling could only help the ball into the top of the net.
Farsley could have made it 2-0 minutes later when the same combination of Prendergast and McNiven saw the latter direct a header at the far post that Cronin did brilliantly to parry wide.
The Fleet conjured up another decent move on 39 minutes when Moore and Akinde put together a neat passing move that saw George Purcell do well to cut inside a defender but his final shot lacked the same guile and went over the bar. Two minutes later Smith planted a header over from a good position after Purcell’s corner.
Liam Daish may have read the riot act to his men at half-time but the Fleet took a while to settle so it was just as well they hauled themselves back into proceedings on 53 minutes. Purcell’s corner from the left swung into the penalty area and Smith stooped low to place a header beyond the covering Farsley defenders.
With relegation on their mind, Farsley went all out for the three points and should have regained the lead a minute later when Andy Watson took advantage of a hesitant Fleet defence and ran through on goal with only Cronin to beat but his shot was smothered by the Fleet keeper. Watson had a similar chance eight minutes later as he again got behind the Fleet defence but once more Cronin was equal to the shot.
With that let-off, Fleet provided Farsley with one of their own. Ryan Serrant made a hash of a simple clearance and squared the ball to Akinde on the edge of the visitors’ box. The Fleet striker outpaced the only remaining covering defender but seemed to require two touches too many and by the time he decided to shoot, he’d been pushed too wide and hit the side-netting.
On 66 minutes, however, the Fleet got their noses in front when substitute Bostwick supplied the impressive Moore down the left and the attacking midfielder made room to advance and send a low shot past Curtis Aspden in the Farsley goal. Bostwick himself almost made it 3-1 on 69 minutes when he smashed a scorcher of a shot from all of 35 yard that fizzed just over the bar as Aspden stood motionless watching it.
An already considerably injury-ravaged Farsley lost defender Serrant a minute later and had to reshuffle their pack with Prendergast falling back into defence. The makeshift back four at once looked uncomfortable as the Fleet played some good attacking football, with Purcell creating space for himself to get behind the Farsley defence to good effect on three or four occasions. Hearn tested Aspden with a free-kick on 72 minutes but went one better on 80 minutes as Bostwick hit a precise cross from distance and Hearn headed low to his right, the ball creeping over the line as Aspden’s initial save wasn’t as safe as it first appeared.
On 84 minutes Bostwick tried his luck once again from distance and again just cleared the top of the bar while Moore burst between two defenders a minute later but having done the hard work, his final shot was tame. Chukki Eribenne entered the fray on 86 minutes and almost scored with his first touch, heading a corner into Aspden’s arms.
Farsley could offer little else at this stage and Damien Reeves’ high and hopeful shot in the dying minutes was the best they could muster. The Fleet pressed on for a fourth and McPhee could perhaps have dealt better with a header from Hearn’s assist in the final seconds but it mattered not as the home side secured the three points courtesy of their dominant second-half display.
TEAM: Cronin, Ricketts, Hawkins, Smith, Charles, Barrett (Bostwick 59), Hearn, McPhee, Moore (Eribenne 86), Purcell, Akinde (Nade 82). Subs not used: Mott, MacDonald