A goal in stoppage time robbed Fleet of a point as Margate followed Maidstone’s example of gaining revenge for a home Kent derby defeat by turning the tables at Stonebridge Road.
The visitors were much the better side in the first half but Fleet built on an early second-half equaliser and looked much more likely to score from then on until Margate’s last-gasp winner.
Bryan van den Bogaert earned a full debut and Matt Fish was back, with Kenny Clark injured and Anthony Cook on the bench. Aaron McLean was named on the subs’ bench, as was Stuart Lewis, with John Paul Kissock recalled to the starting line-up.
Fleet made a bright start and Danny Haynes got a couple of balls across, with Kissock and Jordan Parkes positive going forwards. But once they’d got sight of the goal, Margate gave Fleet plenty of problems at the back. They almost opened the home back line on six minutes when a cross to Brett Johnson was headed back across goal with Brandon Hall misfooted but Fleet managed to clear their lines.
With his physical presence, Margate centre forward Freddie Ladapo was creating plenty of bother with quick feet on the ground and he was aerially competent as well and Fleet’s defence was initially unsettled.
And nine minutes in, Margate took full advantage. Danny Green started the move from midfield and seemed to be fouled, but the referee played advantage. Ladapo advanced down the left, wrong-footed his marker and crossed low where former Fleet midfielder Kane Wills simply had to keep his effort on target to score. And he duly did for 1-0.
Tom Bonner was booked for pulling Ladapo back as the striker continued to cause a few problems and though Fleet pinged the ball about via Parkes and Kissock, there were also too many stray passes that interrupted the flow. Ladapo then planted a shot into the side netting that had supporters on both sides anxious as the goal billowed, but the score remained unchanged.
Fleet’s best chance came on 36 minutes when Fish got Godden clear on the right. Fleet’s top scorer drove into the box and crossed to Parkes but he couldn’t quite get a clean shot away and the loose ball to Kedwell was hacked away .
The home side picked up from that point but could find no way through, while referee Carl Brook’s frankly below par performance was roundly derided as the teams left the pitch at half-time.
McLean replaced Parkes as the second half got under way and his side made the most of it with just a minute on the clock. Fleet played it down the right and a cross to Kedwell was parried into the path of Godden. His shot was blocked too but Kedwell made no mistake with his second bite of the cherry and swept it home for 1-1.
Whatever gameplan Margate might have had for the second half went out the window and Fleet were suddenly rejuvenated. They penned Margate into their own half for long periods and Haynes did well to beat two men to carve himself a chance but he delayed his shot and was crowded out.
Anthony Acheampong denied Green at the other end with an excellent tackle on his own six-yard line, while Hall did well to push away a Jake Goodman drive but they were Margate’s only real efforts of note until late on. Haynes supplied Kedwell on 54 minutes for a shot that Chris Lewington had to save low before a well-placed back header by McLean set Godden free but he was outmuscled by two defenders and his shot was deflected wide.
Van den Bogaert found his way into the book for what the referee – increasingly barracked by the home fans – deemed a serious foul before Fish’s cross caused consternation as Lewington dropped it, but his defenders hacked it clear.
There was something of a lull midway through the second half but Fleet still seemed more likely to steal the win and Godden’s 79th minute effort was excellent but just off target.
The visitors seemed to have settled for a point when they replaced the influential Green with the experienced David Hunt but they managed to craft an attacking threat once more late on. Ladapo, who Fleet had succeeded in keeping quiet all half, wrong-footed Bonner and twisted and turned the Fleet defenders before looping a shot over the bar.
That might have served as a warning but Fleet were hit by another sucker punch as the game entered stoppage time. A raid down the left almost opened Fleet up and a deep ball to the far post had to be headed out of the six-yard box by Dean Rance. The home side didn’t quite clear their lines, however, and Luke Moore found Lewis Taylor on the right. His floated effort looked like he meant it as a cross but it went high over Hall to the top corner and dropped in under the bar to leave Fleet despondent at the final whistle.
EUFC: Hall, Fish, van den Bogaert, Kissock, Acheampong, Bonner, Rance, Parkes (McLean 46), Kedwell, Godden, Haynes. Subs not used: Miles, Sheringham, Cook, Lewis
MFC: Lewington, Wilson, Green, Wassmer (Rents 59), Goodman, B Johnson, Wills (Jolley 73), L Taylor, Ladapo, D Green (Hunt 82), Moore. Subs not used: J Taylor, Phipps