celebration

Fleet 2-0 Braintree Town

Fleet extended their winning run to seven games under the floodlights as they battered and then broke a Braintree rearguard that more often than not consisted of 11 men behind the ball and a rather laid-back approach that saw the referee add a full seven minutes of time in the first-half and a further five at the end of the second.

But when Greg Cundle earned the penalty for Rakish Bingham to score 17 minutes from the end and then substitute Dominic Poleon put the icing on the cake with a second, there was no doubt where the three points were heading. Just as vital to the win, however, was another clean sheet – and only some resolute defending in the six-yard box kept Braintree from converting a couple of first-half opportunities.

The home side welcomed Sido Jombati back from injury and he was one of five changes, with Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, Kieran Monlouis, Craig Tanner and Lee Martin in from the start, replacing Ben Chapman, Alfie Egan, Will Wood, Chris Solly and Poleon.

Braintree weren’t expected to be too cavalier in their approach to the game and Fleet were forced to go in search of gaps at the back in the opening exchanges, the visitors doing well to close off any avenue to goal.

The chief talking point of the opening 20 minutes was a dust-up between both skippers, which spilled over as other players were briefly involved, producing cautions for Lee Martin and his opposite number, the former Fleet midfielder Matt Johnson.

The disagreement sparked both sides into life and suddenly there was a flurry of chances at either end. Lee Martin saw his shot thwarted by Billy Johnson in goal twice and in between that, Femi Akinwande set the nerves jangling with a good chance to score for Braintree.

Matt Johnson’s attempted lob had Chris Haigh back-pedalling but he took that comfortably in the end while Adebayo-Rowling kept the visitors occupied with his usual raids down the right, a pair of crosses towards Cundle both cut out in the box. Bingham saw a useful effort saved and Sefa Kahraman’s exquisite through ball for Adebayo-Rowling towards the end of the half deserved better end product.

But Braintree came close on occasion, too, and indeed had the clearer-cut chances. Akinwande was guilty of squandering a great opportunity on 38 minutes, sliding on to a Corey Davidson cross but somehow missing the connection. He went closer, however, a minute later, Haigh called into action at close range.

And into the significant time added on – much of it spent watching the visitors’ physio attending to her stricken charges – Akinwande’s run and shot was swept away from the goal line. Tom Derry, who had played against the Fleet only a few weeks ago for Slough, then planted a shot high over the bar in the final action of the half.

Goal number eight of the season for substitute Dominic Poleon

Kutrieb, frustrated as anyone else in the ground, made two changes at half-time to give Braintree something different to think about. On came Chapman and Egan for Paxman and Jombati and they helped propel the Fleet who looked more dangerous in possession and carved out numerous successive chances.

Monlouis fired over and then flashed a smart delivery across goal before Joe Martin’s excellent mazy run just lacked the final ball as he carved deep into opposition territory. Cundle’s cross was headed over and Bingham drew another save from the stretching Johnson before Poleon was introduced to provide even more impetus on 55 minutes.

He had a half-hearted penalty appeal within two minutes of coming on but still Fleet couldn’t find a chink in the Braintree armour, the evening summed up by the appearance of Tanner on the edge of the box surrounded by eight green shirts and unable to get a pass or shot away.

On 64 minutes, Fleet had the ball pinging around the Braintree box like a pinball, it finally running to the far post where Adebayo-Rowling got a clean shot on it but that too was blocked. Egan sent a shot over while Braintree’s one foray upfield of the half resulted in Akinwande getting an effort on target but cleared, Matt Johnson firing the second ball into the Plough End.

With much of the 955 crowd watching the minutes tick down on the scoreboard, the breakthrough finally arrived on 73 minutes when Cundle went to ground and the referee pointed to the spot, Bingham patiently waiting for the protests to finish before slamming home his fifth goal of the season.

The relief was palpable and it probably didn’t need a second goal to make it safe, but Poleon’s little injection of pace seven minutes from time as he ran on to Bingham’s excellent pass gave him room to find the far corner as he eased into a shooting position.

His well-timed chip on 90 minutes skipped agonisingly wide as Fleet sought a third goal but the hard work was done and the departing supporters left in good cheer, their side up another place in the table to third.

EUFC: Haigh, Jombati (Chapman 46), Kahraman, J.Martin, Adebayo-Rowling, Cundle, Monlouis (Poleon 55), Tanner, Paxman (Egan 46), L.Martin, Bingham. Subs: Romain, Gould
BTFC: B.Johnson, Johnson-Schuster, Porter (Hope 84), M.Johnson, Clements, Anderson, Pennell, Payne (Davidson 22), Derry (Crichlow 78), Akinwande, Krasniqi. Subs: Ikbuasi, Dixon-Hodge
Attendance: 955

Man of the Match v Braintree Town (h)

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Ed Miller

Ed Miller

Ed Miller has been Ebbsfleet United's communications manager and programme editor since 2014 and responsible for the club website since 2007. Contact him on ed.miller@eufc.co.uk

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