Fleet 1-1 Sutton United

Fleet stooped the rot in recent home games against Sutton United by taking an early lead but the U’s battled back in the second half to earn a share of the spoils.

There was plenty of optimism in a solid first-half for the Fleet that back-to-back wins could be achieved but Sutton’s improvement after half-time put paid to hopes of three points.

Kevin Watson kept good to his promise to start Tomi Adeloye, his inclusion behind the front two the only change as John Goddard dropped to the bench.

Myles Weston failed to make the subs’ list as he added a groin problem to his recent hamstring injury, but Jack King and Andre Blackman were back in the dugout.

Sutton forced a couple of early corners, with David Ajiboye dangerous down the right, and David Gregory had to be careful as Jamie Grimes’ back header landed on the top of his net.

But Fleet grabbed their earliest goal of the season with just six minutes on the clock.

It came via Adam Mekki’s floated free-kick into the box and as Sutton’s defence eyed the flight of the ball, Marvel Ekpiteta got to it ahead of anyone else, guiding a header past Nik Tzanev and then following in past the goalkeeper to make sure of things.

Sutton’s reaction was fairly muted for a while but they did carve out a couple of useful chances. A corner delivered low on 13 minutes found its way back out to Tommy Wright and he arrowed a decent shot towards the bottom corner that David Gregory watched zip just wide of his near post.

Fleet traded blows at the other end and a neat one-two between Adeloye and Josh Umerah almost released the latter for a run on goal before Ben Goodliffe covered and conceded a corner.

The home side looked confident as they took the game to Sutton, with the wind playing its part when the ball carried over the head of Louis John and almost let Umerah in.

Four minutes after that, a sustained spell of pressure saw Jamie Grimes turn in the opposition area and tease a cross in towards the six-yard box and Ekpiteta was there to divert it just wide.

Sutton still posed a threat, however, and top scorer Harry Beautyman thumped one from distance on 26 minutes that Gregory needed two chances to tame. And the Fleet goalkeeper was on hand again with Sutton’s next attack when the tricky Ajiboye fired through a crowd only to see his shot pushed away.

Umerah lashed an effort just over the bar from the right side of the box and when Adeloye was felled on the edge of the box without a free-kick awarded, he sprung back up to curl an effort past the post.

Adeloye’s energy behind Umerah and Gozie Ugwu alongside Mekki’s strong running was creating a useful link between midfield and the strikers but there was a feeling that one goal might not be enough as the sides trooped in for half-time.

Jermaine McGlashan looks to get away from the attentions of Kenny Davis

And so it turned out as Sutton looked much more purposeful in the opening phase of the second half. They had a first effort two minutes in when a ball wide to Kyel Reid saw a hole open in the Fleet back line but Lawrie Wilson did enough to thwart the Sutton man who looped his shot over the bar.

But with 50 minutes on the clock, Sutton were back in it. Ajiboye’s delivery was well weighted in between Fleet’s two centre backs and Beautyman stooped low to head the ball the wrong side of Gregory for the equaliser.

The visitors controlled the game for a spell following that but neither side could really get the ball down and play on the surface.

There were plenty of set pieces earned by both sides throughout the game and from a corner on 65 minutes, Tzanev dropped the ball and it fell to Ayo Obileye. But he had a lot to do to turn and get his shot down and it kept rising over the bar.

He came nearer to a goal seven minutes later when a free-kick floated beyond Sutton’s last man and Obileye snuck in to drive a low shot towards the near post that Tzanev was alert to.

A couple of substitutions interrupted what wasn’t much of a flow to the game to be fair and it seemed to be petering out for a draw when Sutton really should have won it.

The chance came on 80 minutes, an attack releasing Wright who, seizing on Ekpiteta’s slip, was able to home in on goal, get a shot past Gregory but was disappointed as excellent covering pay by Grimes saw the ball cleared off the line.

Sutton sent a late free-kick over the bar as Fleet mounted a rally in the last few minutes, Adeloye almost getting clear in the box before a couple of bizarre decisions from the officials ended proceedings with the scores level.

EUFC: Gregory, Wilson, Grimes, Ekpiteta, Obileye, Sutherland, Mekki, McGlashan (Goddard 83), Adeloye, Umerah (Blackman 72), Ugwu. Subs not used: Palmer, King, Egan.
SUFC: Tzanev, John, Wyatt, Barden, Goodliffe, Davis, Beautyman, Ajiboye (Bolarinwa 87), Bugiel (Dundas 79), Wright (Kealy 90), Reid. Subs not used: Rowe, Milsom.
Attendance: 979.

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