It was Isuzu FA Trophy progress for Eastbourne Borough as a first-half goal was enough to ensure their place in Round 3. Fleet looked like they’d pushed the tie to penalties as a late Shaq Coulthirst strike beat Lee Worgan, but it was disallowed for offside.
Now Dennis Kutrieb’s side have another Round 2 tie to concentrate on in front of the TV cameras before a return to league action.
The Fleet were able to welcome back some absentees as Christian N’Guessan and Darren McQueen passed their respective fitness tests to take a place in the starting lineup. Haydn Hollis, meanwhile, took on the armband and skipper’s duties.
Eastbourne might have taken an early lead when Jake Hutchinson was able to nip in ahead of Sido Jombati to send a low effort rolling past Mark Cousins’ far post.
Fleet raised the home crowd’s spirits with some sustained build-up in the 11th minute, Franklin Domi ending one move with a shot blocked in the box before Toby Edser snuck in behind the blue shirts to float a delivery across the six-yard area but that skipped clear.
There was an even more promising move on the quarter-hour with Domi surging through the middle and feeding Paxman on the left. He cut inside and across several players, finding Coulthirst in a good position and he was most unfortunate that his shot was pushed aside by Lee Worgan.
Kieran Monlouis was next when he used his strength to speed past two markers and fire a shot just wide but Cousins still had to be alert at the other end, pushing Chris Whelpdale’s shot behind for a corner. But from the second of those subsequent corners on 21 minutes, Eastbourne went ahead. Whelpdale helped it on, his floated cross the perfect height for Hutchinson to complete the simple task of nodding it home.
Coulthirst had a second chance blocked by two men from McQueen’s cross before Jombati glanced Chapman’s cross just over the bar as the half-hour point was reached. Eight minutes on from that, Fleet had their best opportunity. It came from more good build-up play and Domi was instrumental, carrying the ball from wide infield, loosing off a shot to the far post that was poked off the line by the sliding leg of Kai Woollard-Innocent.
Domi was causing some damage against the club he formerly played for on loan and another run, helped on by Coulthirst, landed eight yards out for Edser but he was crowded out and his shot thwarted by blue shirts.
The search for the equaliser continued after the break with Monlouis powering along the byline on 48 minutes to fire in from a tight angle but that was cleared and at the other end Whelpdale tried to back-flick a corner on target but it looped away and over.
Cousins had to get in the way of Hutchinson’s effort at the far post as Eastbourne spread play wide after a free-kick but much of the second half was a stalemate, Coulthirst’s close-range header on 73 minutes the best of the opportunities. Substitute Craig Tanner sent a free-kick over the bar minutes later and another off the bench, Elliott Romain, headed down an inviting cross to no avail.
With four minutes left, Fleet thought they’d got the elusive equaliser. A couple of exchanges between Edser and Coulthirst came to Tanner and his 20-yard shot was parried by Worgan into Coulthirst’s path. The striker was quick to react and convert the loose ball but up went the offside flag.
Fleet searched hard in the final period, Cousins pushed upfield for the second week in succession in the hope he might get a head on a high ball and Tanner had a late strike as the last hope for the afternoon before the final whistle came.
EUFC: Cousins, Domi, Chapman, Jombati, Hollis, N’Guessan, Monlouis (Tanner 70), Edser, Paxman (Martin 62), McQueen (Romain 80), Coulthirst. Subs: O’Neill, Poleon, Cundle, Haigh
EBFC: Worgan, Woollard-Innocent, Barry, Dickenson (Burchell 45), Wynter, Perez, Hammond, Luer, Whelpdale (Walker 66), Gravata, Hutchinson (Remy 72). Subs: Mbonkwi, Bull, Scarlett, Holter
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