Suited, but not booted, Daryl McMahon successfully negotiated his first test as caretaker manager to end a traumatic week for the club on a high. Anthony Cook’s second-half goal was enough to see off Ryman Premier promotion contenders Hendon, who proved resolute throughout and stubborn to break down.
McMahon made a number of changes, including withdrawing himself to the touchline, meaning Michael Corcoran wore the No.4 shirt. Anthony Acheampong returned in place of Shane Huke, while Billy Bricknell was chosen ahead of Charlie Sheringham and Matt Johnson came in for the injured Brendan Kiernan. Preston Edwards, meanwhile, injured his shoulder pre-match, ruling him out for just over a month, meaning Academy goalkeeper Rhys Hughes was on the bench.
Fleet had the first chance within two minutes, ironically in territory that McMahon might have fancied. Instead, Cook fired a free-kick from a central position just wide. Hendon then posted their intent as former Fleet striker Kezie Ibe fed Dave Diedhiou and he played the ball wide for Anthony Da Costa who cut in and fired into the side netting under pressure from Joe Howe.
On 10 minutes, Johnson lofted a clever pass over the Hendon back line to Bricknell who took it down well but delayed the shot and the visitors got a block in. Two minutes later Cook fired a low shot that goalkeeper Ben McNamara could only parry on the six-yard line but Fleet lacked an attacker following up and the chance went.
Howe earned his fifth booking of the season for a fairly soft challenge on 18 minutes and that began a period of exasperation with the referee and with a few antics from Hendon that got the crowd’s collective voice raised. Johnson also found his way into the book on 24 minutes for a challenge on Diedhiou whose subsequent theatrics were worthy of a larger audience, particularly when he sprinted back into play minutes later to the derision of the home fans.
Bricknell almost released Sessegnon with an excellent crossfield pass but the Fleet right-back was just short of pace – no surprise given that he was covering much of the right flank on his own as the home side were playing a formation that saw Godden and Rance – captain for the day – nominally on the right side but with both sucked into the middle time and again.
Kenny Clark had Fleet’s next chance six minutes from the break when his header from a corner was powered just wide, while at the other end Hendon’s only real opportunity of note was rather self-inflicted by the Fleet when Howe and Brandon Hall were at cross purposes over a back pass and Acheampong had to clear with his head.
Another goalless first half could have led to frustration in the second, but Fleet finally broke Hendon six minutes after the restart. Howe sprinted down the left and into the box and his low cross was blocked in the six-yard area as Rance slid in, with the ball cleared to Cook who hit a low shot that took a deflection on its way past McNamara to give Fleet the lead.
Fleet continued to press and on 57 minutes Rance’s pass sent Godden through on goal but he was slightly wide and his effort went across goal as Bricknell ran in to support.
Sessegnon departed on the hour with a shoulder injury but it didn’t disrupt the Fleet who continued to hold Hendon at bay, with the visitors struggling to create enough to worry the defence. Instead Fleet could have extended their lead on 69 minutes when Godden sent Bricknell through and his shot was deflected wide, with Godden heading over from the corner when well placed.
Godden was almost in a minute later when McNamara couldn’t hold Cook’s shot but he did manage to recover in time to prevent Godden’s follow-up shot from hitting the back of the net.
Hendon sent on top scorer Leon Smith in a last-ditch attempt to force a replay, but it was the Fleet who looked more likely to score and Clark saw a shot go just wide in the dying minutes. As the game entered stoppage time, Hendon finally saw some action in the final third, with Belal Aite-Ouakrim robbing Johnson and Smith racing in for the delivery as Hall had to be speedy off his line to gather. A corner right at the end also caused a little worry for the home side as McNamara came up from the Hendon goal to challenge but Fleet held out to advance into the First Round and Monday’s draw.
TEAM: Hall, Sessegnon (Huke 61), Howe, Corcoran, Acheampong, Clark, M. Johnson, Rance, Godden, Bricknell, Cook. Subs not used: Hughes, C. Johnson, Palmer, Sheringham.