Late equalisers and penalty kicks for the second Emirates FA Cup tie in succession had the Fleet tantalisingly close to the Fourth Qualifying Round – but the footballing gods had other outcomes in mind as Chippenham prevailed in an extraordinary 17-goal shootout.
With the score at 4-4 at the end of the regulation five penalties, it went to sudden death… but ‘sudden’ was hardly appropriate as both sides refused to miss and it came down to a clash of goalkeepers with Jordan Holmes sending his kick wide and Will Puddy slotting home the decider for Chippenham.
Fleet made seven changes for this tie, with Holmes in for Hadler and Bobby-Joe Taylor, Charlie Rowan, Michael West, James Dobson, Greg Cundle and Reece Grant all making starts.
A quiet opening perhaps lulled Fleet into a false sense of security as Chippenham earned the breakthrough just eight minutes in that for so long looked like winning them the game.
West’s back pass put Taylor and Holmes in trouble and presented with the opportunity, Adam Mann was able to run on to the ball to fire home.
Fleet forced a goalmouth scramble in the aftermath and Grant had a couple of promising runs but nothing quite paid off with the balls into the forwards.
Holmes was the busier of the two goalkeepers saving a number of efforts on target, though of varying threat from the visitors. His best save came in the 26th minute when Mann again nipped in to drive a low shot towards the foot of the post and the Fleet goalkeeper got down well to push it away.
The home side finished the half more strongly, with Dobson playing Cundle in behind the Chippenham defence and his snapshot drew a stop from Puddy. That was followed by a decent effort from West as he met a cross from the right but again Puddy was down and behind it quickly.
Adam Mekki replaced birthday boy Dobson for the second half and the Fleet were almost in on goal straight from kick-off, a swift break down the right releasing West to pull back an effort that Lee Martin and Cundle both snatched at inside the box.
Chippenham had a glorious chance moments later when Rowan’s unfortunate slip landed him painfully inside the opposition dugout. Ross Stearn was able to capitalise and his run into the box and resulting shot was going in but for brilliant tracking back and positioning by Taylor who cleared off the line.
Fleet’s approach play was much better and Chippenham were happy to surrender possession as they formed a tight line in front of Puddy.
And the visiting goalkeeper was in good form, saving from West after heavy Fleet pressure on 53 minutes and doing even better to tip Mekki’s effort over the bar four minutes later.
That was the best of the chances for either side until a red-card incident 20 minutes from the end. Jack Paxman and Gunner went for the same ball, but Gunner was some yards further from it and leapt at the Fleet midfielder with his elbow, clearly catching him in the face. Despite the Chippenham’s bench’s quite vocal if not entirely accurate suggestion that their player’s shoulder was the offender, the referee produced a red card.
Fleet sensed their opportunity and five minutes later Cundle’s clever lob into the box was met by Rowan, clearly unencumbered by the face mask protecting his injured nose, but his header looped over the bar.
Will Wood replaced West on eight minutes with Dennis Kutrieb’s last throw of the dice to send Rowan forward in search of the equaliser. And it paid off right on the clock ticking to 90. Mekki played a neat one-two after some patient Fleet build-up, allowing him a cross that Rowan tucked away into the top corner from 10 yards with a well-timed flick of his boot.
Both sides might have stolen the win in the four minutes of time added on. Chippenham broke quickly down the right with two men in space. Bradley Ash accepted the delivery but his shot was superbly charged down by Bingham, racing from the other end of the pitch to rescue his side.
And Bingham had a break of his own with the final chance, finding Cundle in space who in turn gave Chapman sight of goal but Puddy made the final save.
Perhaps that was fitting as Puddy proved the hero 17 penalty kicks later. He saved Bingham’s penalty at 2-2 in the shootout but Holmes kept Fleet in it when he got down to Luke Russe’s effort. Both sides went through their entire list of players scoring with admirable efficiency until it was down to both goalkeepers. Holmes sent his wide, Puddy didn’t and Chippenham were through.
EUFC: Holmes, Chapman, Taylor, Kahraman, Rowan, Paxman, West (Wood 82), Dobson (Mekki 46), Cundle, Martin (Bingham 57), Grant. Subs not used: Hadler, Egan, Allen, Frempah
CTFC: Puddy, Jones, Sherdon, Dyer, Parselle, Russe, Mann (Phillips 62), Hanks (Gunner 46), Brunt (Zebroski 78), Ash, Stearn. Subs not used: Tyler, Bray