Farnborough 2-2 Fleet

Comeback kings Fleet were trumped by a late, late comeback by their hosts as Farnborough snatched an equaliser in the final minute of added time. It meant seven points rather than the full nine from the Fleet’s three-in-a-row away trips and while tinged by the disappointment of the draw, it’s an impressive haul nonetheless that has extended the lead at the top.

Farnborough will certainly feel they deserved their point after taking the lead in a first-half where they disrupted the Fleet’s pattern of play successfully and continued to hunt for a second after falling behind.

There were four changes for the Fleet following on from the win at Chelmsford with Billy Clifford, Franklin Domi, Greg Cundle and Darren McQueen all starting.

Having played some quick, neat football at Chelmsford, Fleet used that as a springboard to attack Farnborough and the initial minutes suggested the travelling fans were in for more of the same. Christian N’Guessan began to put his mark on midfield while Rakish Bingham and Dominic Poleon looked eager to get on the end of passes forward.

Both sides forced some early set-pieces that didn’t quite pay off and Farnborough’s Olly Robinson showed his prowess with a long throw-in, launching one from 30 yards out that bounced in the six-yard box to warn the Fleet.

The visitors forced the first solid opening of the half on 19 minutes when N’Guessan’s quick-thinking played Poleon in and he in turn dropped a pass into McQueen’s path 15 yards out. But it was a tight angle for the wide man and although he got the right side of Jordan Norville-Williams, he pulled his shot over the bar.

Having weathered that early spell of Fleet superiority, Farnborough’s confidence grew and Norville-Williams began to push McQueen back a little further to dictate the home side’s attack from his wide left position. Added to some ragged passing on a deceptive surface, it knocked the Fleet out of their stride and Farnborough began to impose themselves in the middle.

Haydn Hollis had to be alert to keep out Norville-Williams and another Robinson throw caused a problem. John Oyenuga then found himself on the end of another delivery to the far post, heading a close-range effort at Mark Cousins.

Fleet didn’t heed that warning, however, and fell behind on 28 minutes. Another Robinson throw, this time from the left, made its way to the same far-post area and Norville-Williams was able to get a toe on it and stab it over the line.

That setback failed to spark the Fleet into action and the home side were reluctant to relinquish the control they’d established. A Norville-Williams free-kick skidded through the box and out before Hollis did enough to thwart Oyenuga on the stroke of half-time as Fleet once more lost possession and were caught short on the break.

Farnborough were into their stride again quickly in the second-half and Norville-Williams pinged another free-kick just wide, this time with a little more power on it. Reggie Young delivered a second set-piece into the six-yard box as the visitors searched for a spark to offer more threat to the yellow shirts.

It came on 56 minutes, quite unexpectedly. With the Fleet about to make two changes, N’Guessan fired a ball in behind and Domi drove in from the right, a purposeful run along the byline beating a defender, before he arrowed a shot low into the opposite corner.

Renewed belief coursed through the Fleet side and the tempo of the game rose a notch, Greg Cundle bundling his way through to fire across goal but Farnborough survived that one. Less than 10 minutes later, as at St Albans a week earlier, Kutrieb’s men went ahead. It was the third close-range goal of the evening and similar to Domi’s equaliser as a corner by substitute Toby Edser was delivered back to him and his shot was blocked on the line. With goalkeeper Jack Turner grounded, Hollis was first to pounce to send the ball over the line for 2-1.

Fleet had chances to extend that lead as Bingham and Poleon looked a lot more lively, Bingham’s determination earning him a second opportunity for an effort on goal that ran just wide of the near post. Omari Sterling-James succeeded in keeping Norville-Williams a little more subdued and might have run down a ball forward as he went one on one with Turner.

Ben Chapman offered plenty of energy and a useful outlet as he came on seven minutes from the end but Farnborough kept pressing and Robinson’s throw-in continued to pose a threat. Cousins kept out Jon Page’s drive from distance and Bingham went closer still at the other end when Farnborough had to perform some defensive heroics that eventually ended up with a yellow shirt hoisting the ball off the line.

It seemed that most of Farnborough’s attacks were being blunted by the Fleet back line as home fans made for the exits. But deep into added time, a hooked clearance bounced for the impressive Selim Saied to turn Sido Jombati. His one-two with Harry Parsons produced a great one-handed save from Cousins but it fell kindly for the onrushing Chike Kandi to turn home.

EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill, Jombati, Hollis, N’Guessan, Clifford (Edser 57), Cundle, McQueen (Sterling-James 57), Domi (Chapman 83), Bingham, Poleon. Subs: Finney, Coulthirst
FFC: Turner, Ball, Grant, Fearn (Kandi 85), Robinson, Young, Page, Saied, Oyenuga (Holmes 75), Bloomfield (Parsons 46), Norville-Williams. Subs: Silva, Lawless
Attendance: 701

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