Two sendings-off and a penalty were the story of Fleet’s defeat at the hands of Hungerford Town this afternoon as the Crusaders recorded their first win in this fixture courtesy of top scorer Ryan Seager’s brace.
He scored in each half with Elliott Romain’s equaliser in between not enough to yield points for the home side in a dramatic but disappointing afternoon at the Kuflink Stadium.
The Fleet made two changes from the side that drew against Dorking, Elliott Romain replacing Shaq Coulthirst – who had been withdrawn early following a knock last weekend – and Lee Martin coming in for Adam Mekki wide on the left.
Hungerford had the ball in the net early on but that was ruled out for a clear foul on Lee Martin and from then on the Fleet set about searching for a breakthrough against the expected tight defensive line from the visitors. A clever one-two between Romain and Rakish Bingham ended with the latter driving a good low effort that goalkeeper Luke Cairney saved well.
Romain nodded over a cross from the persistent Jack Paxman from the right and the midfielder then created the next opportunity on 15 minutes, driving through midfield for Bingham to shoot. He was intercepted but Romain then drew a stretching save from Cairney at the foot of his post, Bingham just unable to capitalise before the ball was cleared.
The visitors took the lead on 21 minutes completely against the run of play as a clearance eluded Paxman and the speedy Sol Wanjau-Smith was able to shake off the Fleet midfielder’s pursuit to fire beyond the advancing Louie Moulden. That came back off the woodwork but Seager was on to it quickly to send another effort into the net, despite the attentions of Fleet players retreating towards their own goalline.
As with the previous Saturday, Fleet weren’t in arrears for very long. Within five minutes, Tanner had floated in a free-kick and Romain got on the end of it to touch it first time past Cairney from 10 yards.
Cairney kept his side in it in the first half, stretching again on 28 minutes to push away a fine effort from Lee Martin that seemed destined for the bottom corner. And he denied the Fleet again on 36 minutes when Tanner’s cross to the far post was met by the head of Bingham but tipped over by Cairney.
Romain sent another effort over late on before Hungerford skipper James Rusby was cautioned for following in on Moulden just before the break.
Dominic Poleon replaced Ben Chapman who was also on a yellow card for the second-half and he was soon involved, heading across the box from Lee Martin’s pacy delivery. Hungerford began to press a little more with two chances, the first falling for Callum Willmoth on 52 minutes when he got ahead of Bingham to fire just wide as Moulden leapt across to save.
And moments after that, a crossfield delivery from the right played Curtis Angell in and Sido Jombati had to be alert to mop up and play out from the back.
But the game turned on an incident in the 63rd minute when Joe Martin felled Wanjau-Smith as he was running through the middle. The referee reached straight for a yellow but in an ensuing flare-up as Jake Evans leant in to Martin, arms were raised and the man in the middle issued two yellow cards to dismiss the Fleet full-back.
And five minutes later, Hungerford took full advantage. Missing Martin down the left side, Fleet were open to Wanjau-Smith’s advance and Christian N’Guessan – who had played an otherwise faultless game to that point – upended him for a penalty, which Seager duly dispatched.
Franklin Domi came on for his debut and Will Wood followed from the bench, his willing running keeping Hungerford well occupied as they massed behind the ball. Wood sent a free-kick into the wall and sent a couple of trademark shots at goal before Poleon shot over the bar.
Hungerford were reduced to 10 men themselves when Rusby paid for his earlier yellow card, securing a second caution on 77 minutes for illegally checking Paxman’s run towards the box – and Fleet fans were none too happy with the skipper’s slow trudge towards the wrong changing room and referee Mannix’s equally slow reaction to reverse his direction!
Fleet had a claim for handball turned down and Wood tried to pick his spot with an effort on target in added time but Cairney was able to pluck that out of the sky. As such, Hungerford were able to keep the home side at bay and keenly celebrated the three points with Fleet now looking to shake off this one with a Kent Senior Cup tie at Folkestone in midweek and then a league visit to Welling United on Saturday.
EUFC: Moulden, J.Martin, Solly, Jombati, Chapman (Poleon 46), N’Guessan, Paxman, L.Martin (Domi 70), Tanner (Wood 74), Romain, Bingham. Subs: Mekki, Haigh
HTFC: Cairney, Angell, Bailey, Tyler, Berry-Hargreaves, Rusby, Willmoth, Ram, Evans (Smith 84), Wanjau-Smith (Ofori-Acheampong 90), Seager (McGrory 90). Subs: Herbert, Emmerson