NOT QUITE THE SUNDAY BEST FOR THE FLEET AS MATCH ENDS IN GOALLESS DRAW
EBBSFLEET UNITED 0-0 KETTERING TOWN
Report by Ed Miller
The Fleet?s steady improvement in the league continued on this unfamiliar Sunday afternoon but they couldn?t quite find a killer blow to match the two dealt previously to Barrow and Crawley.
Liam Daish kept faith with the side that pipped Crawley to the post on Thursday, utilising his two tall front men ? Michael Gash and Matthew Delicate ? against Kettering?s towering defence. Having lost and failed to score in their last two league games, the visitors were keen to get back to winning ways though may still have had one eye on next week?s FA Cup Second Round tie.
The Fleet began positively with Neil Barrett and Delicate linking well and the new striker making his presence felt in the air to a greater extent than he managed against Crawley. But it was the visitors who should have gone ahead on 17 minutes when Tommy Jaszczun?s long free-kick found Chris Beardsley on the edge of the box and after his initial effort was parried, John Dempster planted an easy chance wide of the post.
Luke Moore drew first blood for the Fleet on 20 minutes, his shot through a crowd of bodies forcing ex-Sittingbourne goalkeeper Lee Harper into a low save. This signalled a real purple patch for the Fleet and Long and Gash had efforts blocked from two free kicks as Kettering were pegged back in their own half. Long also delivered a superb powerful cross that Barrett struck sweetly with his head from close range but Harper did very well to tip the effort just over the bar.
But the Fleet were riding their luck at times, with Kettering quick to break through Alfie Potter and Craig Westcarr, the former giving Sacha Opinel a torrid time while James Smith also had to be alert on several occasions. Indeed Potter should have done better on 34 minutes when he finished off his own move, having robbed Opinel down the Fleet left, but the winger hit his shot off target.
The visitors ended the half in the ascendancy having weathered the Fleet storm and Darren Wrack wasted another good chance, lifting a shot high over Lance Cronin?s bar after a long throw from Exodus Geohaghan caught the Fleet defence napping. And while Kettering?s forwards were well-marshalled by Darius Charles and Mark Ricketts in particular ? Iyseden Christie was clearly as out of sorts as on his previous visit with Stevenage ? their taller players always looked likely to create something from set pieces.
As the half closed, the Fleet were fortunate to see Dempster?s header bounce off the corner of the upright as he bounded in unmarked from another Geohoghan throw. Christie then showed a bit more life when hitting a shot that Cronin was forced to block after he sprung the Fleet offside trap before the referee blew for half-time.
The second-half was barely three minutes old when the Fleet showed more attacking edge. Moore and Long combined well to get beyond a flat-footed Poppies defence but Gash?s shot failed to beat Harper.
At the other end Cronin had to be alert to a Potter shot though that was the last Kettering showed until the 68th minute when substitute Chris Arthur put a shot past the post. In between, the Fleet sought to gain the upper hand, but beyond taking the midfield by the scruff of the neck failed to really threaten Harper?s goal.
That said their best chance came on 62 minutes when Delicate surged into the box from the right channel and twisted and turned inside Jaszczun before supplying Gash on the edge of the six-yard box. It looked as if the Fleet number nine was certain to score, but Harper somehow turned his shot over the bar.
The Fleet stepped it up again in the closing quarter once Long went to the right-hand side following George Purcell?s introduction for Delicate on 63 minutes. There was some fine one-touch football, most of it involving Barrett, Ricketts and Long, as they sought to exploit an unsteady Jaszczun on the Kettering left. Charles went close with a header on 72 minutes and Purcell threatened to make a breakthrough on 75, while Geohaghan saw yellow minutes later after cynically pulling Moore back on the edge of the box.
In the final minutes, Long should have done better when released down the right and though he got behind the Kettering defence, his shot from an angle was straight into Harper?s arms. The visitors, too, could have nicked it when Arthur skipped down the left and whipped in a fierce shot that Cronin did very well to push away.
This was a hard-fought point against a decent side and while the Fleet might have felt they edged it with their second-half superiority, Kettering?s missed chances in the first half meant a draw was probably the right result… though how it was a goalless one was anybody?s guess.
TEAM: Cronin, Ricketts (Slatter 84), Smith, Charles, Opinel, Moore, Stone (Murray 77), Barrett, Long, Gash, Delicate (Purcell 63).
Subs Not Used: Mott, Pooley.