Fleet’s second behind-closed-doors runout of pre-season saw strong opposition in the form of National League Dagenham & Redbridge visit the Kuflink Stadium.
Daryl McMahon’s first return to his former home saw him name a powerful Daggers lineup with Angelo Balanta and new signing Paul McCallum starting up front plus ex-Fleet faces Myles Weston and Kenny Clark also in from the first whistle.
For the Fleet, Dennis Kutrieb trialled a new striker wearing the No.9 shirt and also handed starts to Tom Hadler, James Dobson, Jake Goodman and Alfie Egan in other changes from the win over Punjab United in midweek.
The visitors sought to get Weston into the game as much as possible and James Dobson – lining up against his parent club – had plenty to do in keeping the former Fleet winger quiet.
Fleet had the best of the opening exchanges, looking to continue from where they’d left off on Tuesday night… though the Dagenham defence was understandably more stubborn as skipper Lee Martin and his trialist partner sought to pick the lock.
It was from midfield that the opening goal came, however, with Ben Chapman on hand in similar style to his strike against Punjab to put the Fleet ahead on seven minutes.
Dobson’s shot came back off Harry Phipps, Chapman collected on the edge of the box, turned and struck a fine effort low to the goalkeeper’s right that flew into the bottom corner.
Fleet weren’t far from a second on 13 minutes when Mekki released Dobson, whose well-flighted cross from the left was attacked by Trialist No.9 whose diving header was thwarted by Phipps.
Goodman got in a good tackle in the six-yard box on Balanta on the quarter-hour mark but it was the home side who looked more likely for a second when Chapman’s curling effort from a Mekki corner forced Josh Strizovic into an excellent one-handed save, tipping the ball over the upright.
Hadler had a couple of good saves of his own to make after that, first to stop Balanta racing through and then with the help of Goodman to stop one of Dagenham’s trialists as he bore down on goal.
Dagenham were back on level terms on 36 minutes with a clever effort when a ball forward reached McCallum, whose quick-thinking chip smacked off the inside of the post before finding its way behind Hadler and in.
Martin hit the post from a Chapman through pass but that was deemed offside and honours were rightly even as the referee blew for half-time.
Fleet’s second-half changes saw three more trialists introduced including Tuesday night’s hat-trick hero wearing the No.16 shirt. Jordan Holmes replaced Hadler in goal and on came Marvel Ekpiteta and Ben Frempah.
Dagenham also shuffled their side after the break and there were more recognisable men in yellow as Dean Rance, Darren McQueen and Sam Deering featured.
Fleet could have been back ahead within five minutes, Trialist No.16 speeding on to Chapman’s pass to cross and a shot came back off the post, Egan pouncing to force a good save from Elliot Justham.
McQueen had a couple of sniffs at goal for Dagenham, placing his best chance just wide on 63 minutes before the Fleet enjoyed their best spell of the second period. Trialist No.12 showed good skill to find space in the box and his shot found the target but was parried by Justham, Mekki’s follow-up effort blocked.
Fleet felt they had good cause for a penalty on 74 minutes when Trialist No.19’s trickery took him around a Dagenham defender but he was checked on the edge of the box and went down, pleas from the Fleet bench falling on deaf ears.
Neither side could quite find the end product to match their approach play but Reece Grant changed all that for Dagenham as the game entered its final phase.
Moments after Fleet’s penalty appeal, on 75 minutes, he exchanged passes with Elliot Johnson to convert at the far post past Holmes to give Dagenham the lead.
The same player made it 3-1 with seven minutes left. Deering’s ball into the box was helped on by Luke Croll and Grant was able to scoop it home from 10 yards.
The result was hardly the important factor as Fleet’s first-half display was bright and purposeful and they went toe-to-toe with Dagenham for long periods across the 90 minutes despite the swap-round of players and trialists that inevitably interrupted the flow.
From hosting one Essex team to visiting another, Kutrieb’s squad are next in action on Tuesday at Hornchurch when Fleet fans can get a look for themselves!
EUFC 1st half: Hadler, Adebayo-Rowling, Dobson, Goodman, Kahraman, Chapman, Egan, Mekki, Payne, Trialist (No.9), Martin.
EUFC 2nd half: Holmes, Adebayo-Rowling, Ekpiteta, Frempah, Kahraman, Trialist No.19, Chapman, Mekki, Egan, Trialist (No. 12), Trialist (No.16).