A game of two halves and a team of two halves produced a 1-1 draw against Bostik Premier League champions Billericay Town in the first pre-season workout of 2018/19.
Under searing midday heat, a lively enough first half produced both the goals and a second-half with a more understandably sedate tempo saw fewer chances for both sides. Billericay made the early running and top scorer Jake Robinson was through only to go down in the box but the referee waved away penalty appeals.
For the Fleet, Sean Shields – fresh from his end-of-season injury problems – looked bright and new signing Ebou Adams had plenty about him in the middle. Jack Connors, training with the Fleet despite his release in May, made good ground on 12 minutes, skipping two challenges and helping a pass onto Drury 20 yards out whose shot bounced off Dean Inman for a corner.
Six minutes later Billericay had the best chance to open the scoring when Moses Emmanuel got the better of Chris Bush and fizzed in a cross that just eluded Robinson and Ricky Modeste at the far post. But from that let-off, Fleet opened the scoring on 19 minutes. Myles Weston worked his way down the Fleet right and delivered a low ball into the box that Adams eased on to and bundled a shot over the line that Alan Julian couldn’t reach.
While tempers never quite frayed in this friendly, a hefty challenge by Simon Walton on Adams on the half-hour mark produced a few verbal interactions from the sidelines and the referee had a word with the offending Billericay player.
A treat for the Fleet fans in attendance was the reappearance of Darren McQueen and he looked like he’d lost none of his pace as evidence on 32 minutes when he kept control of the ball along the edge of the box and outfoxed two defenders before laying the ball into Connors’ path whose resulting shot was pulled wide.
Billericay equalised on 35 minutes when Dean Rance’s pass was too short and intercepted by Robinson who advanced into the Fleet box and a ball to the other side of the area fell nicely for Sam Deering who only had to keep the ball on target to score.
Fleet should have restored their lead four minutes before half-time when Weston’s fine through ball had enough on it to play McQueen through and the Fleet striker’s snatched shot was decent but palmed away by Julian. Shields attempted a follow-up but that skewed off target. The visitors applied some pressure late on and a corner was hoisted clear by Dave Winfield but only on to his own crossbar, Walton striking the rebound high over.
The second half saw an entirely different Fleet side and Billericay made six changes of their own but there was little of incident. Danny Kedwell created an opportunity for Corey Whitely with a high pass that went behind the BIllericay back line and Nathan Ashmore had to tip away an effort from Adam Cunnington.
As the half wore on, Bagasan Graham showed some willing running down the left and Luke Coulson almost played him in but the resulting shot by the former Chelmsford man was high. Whitely saw plenty of the ball but was well marked and Inman made a fine tackle at Coulson’s feet inside the box to deny him a shot on target. That was pretty much it other than trialist Freddy Moncur’s cross for Kedwell to head over before the 329 inside the stadium departed swiftly to see England march into a World Cup semi-final.
EUFC First Half: Miles, Wilson, Connors, Winfield, Bush, Rance, Drury, Adams, Shields, Weston, McQueen
EUFC Second Half: Ashmore, Magri, Graham, King, Clark, Payne, Moncur, Powell, Coulson, Whitely, Kedwell
BTFC: Julian (Strizovic 46), Kizzi, Kennedy, Walton (Thomas 46), Inman, Deering, Modeste (Hunte 46), Howells, Robinson (Cunnington 46), O’Hara (Waldren 46), Emmanuel (Mongel 46)