Fleet 1-1 Havant & W.

Fleet stopped the rot at the Kuflink Stadium with a point but it’s five games without a win and with Kenny Clark sent off for a second yellow card, it was a frustrating afternoon for the home faithful. Another early goal conceded meant the Fleet had to come from behind and that they did, Michael Cheek opening his account after his August move from Dagenham & Redbridge.

Cheek was one of five changes, with Chris Bush, Bagasan Graham, Jack Powell and a surprise return for skipper Dave Winfield seeing Jack King, Luke Coulson, Sam Magri, Danny Kedwell and Andy Drury make way.

It was Winfield who was caught cold, however, three minutes in when he was slow to make a pass-back or clearance and Nicke Kabamba nipped in, rounded Nathan Ashmore and squared the ball into Aaran Cosgrave who poked it into the empty net.

Fleet have conceded too many, too early at home this season and they had to regroup once more. It was a familiar story as the red shirts enjoyed most of the ball and began to take the game to the opposition. The effervescent Corey Whitely was straight into the heart of the action and his cross forced Ben Dudzinski into the first of many corner concessions.

Winfield then headed Chris Bush’s long throw just past the upright before Whitely accepted another chance, the Havant defence gifting him possession and he arrowed a decent low shot just wide of the far post.

Fleet continued to rack up the corner count and they restricted Havant to a couple of forays upfield on the counter but nothing paid off until the 28th minute. A ball forward into Whitely’s path was gobbled up by the home side’s top scorer as he beat the goalkeeper to it but as he rounded Dudzinski there was still plenty to do. Whitely played it into the middle where Cheek was waiting and he managed to hook it towards goal and keep it on target for the equaliser.

The home fans sensed their side could up the tempo and Graham’s movement down the left saw the next chance as he hoisted a decent cross into the six-yard box but nobody was on the end of that one. A caution that would prove fateful arrived shortly before half-time when Clark caught Cosgrave with a late challenge, though a yellow card seemed harsh for his first foul and one that he more slipped into than actively intended.

There was a penalty shout five minutes before the break when Cheek seemed to be clattered on the 12-yard spot but referee Will Fennie awarded a free-kick to Havant instead to the surprise of most in the ground. At the other end, Havant weren’t troubling Ashmore but Tyler Cordner got the wrong side of Bush from a corner and found the side netting when he probably should have at least hit the target. One last chance came Fleet’s way when Cheek’s shot bounced off Ed Harris and Winfield then dived low to direct a header just wide.

The second-half was set up for a Fleet attacking show but it never quite happened. Havant survived an early goalmouth scramble as Fleet initially looked like they might dominate before Sean Shields, on after Graham had taken a knock, drove a shot over the bar. The busiest man on the pitch was the referee, however, as he began to dole out a succession of yellow cards.

Chances were at a premium, with neither goalkeeper having a save to make. Shields forced a pass through to Whitely but he was herded outside the box and his shot was off target. Winfield’s shirt was then blatantly pulled in the box but that was ignored and Fleet’s best chance of driving their superior possession home took a blow on 77 minutes when Clark led with his arm as he went for a header against Alfie Pavey and the referee had no hesitation in plucking a second yellow from his pocket.

Despite going down to 10 men, Fleet still held their own but Havant were more adventurous, bringing on another attacker in Ibra Sekajja for former Fleet midfielder Theo Lewis. Shields smashed a long-distance shot into the side netting and Myles Weston cut inside to float a late effort over the bar. Havant skipper Brian Stock earned a late yellow card for a cynical second challenge in the centre circle as the visitors broke play up with a succession of fouls.

Havant might have won it at the death when Stock’s cross was headed down by Pavey and Andy Robinson flashed it wide from close range.

EUFC: Ashmore, Clark, Winfield, Bush, Weston, Graham (Shields 52), Rance, Adams, Powell (McQueen 75), Whitely, Cheek (Magri 87). Subs not used: Kedwell, Coulson
HWFC: Dudzinski, Woodford, Harris, Cordner, Huggins, Stock, Lewis (Sekajja 83), Ridge (Robinson 75), Williams, Kabamba, Cosgrave (Pavey 75). Subs not used: Tarbuck, Rutherford
Attendance: 1,141

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