Fleet 2-0 Havant & Waterlooville

A late goal sealed another gutsy but superb three points for the Fleet as they saw off promotion rivals Havant & Waterlooville to make it a 13-point gap between the clubs. A Dominic Poleon opener, added to as full-time approached by substitute Franklin Domi, had the added advantage of extending the lead over second-placed Dartford as well as they could only draw at Welling.

But it will be his own side’s performance, dogged defensive display and clean sheet – while still always a threat at the other end – that will have pleased Dennis Kutrieb… not to mention most of the 1,681 supporters who greeted the victory with a vocal and cheery reaction.

Fleet made three changes, Josh Wright back in the eleven alongside Omari Sterling-James and Toby Edser, while making way were Billy Clifford, Darren McQueen and Shaq Coulthirst.

Havant were quick to set about the Fleet and Mo Faal got some space down the right on two minutes to attack, rolling a pacy shot just past the foot of the Fleet’s far post. New signing Tyrell Miller-Rodney than planted another effort high over the bar before the home side responded with a great move forward. That came courtesy of Rakish Bingham’s break upfield, exchanging passes with Greg Cundle in behind the Hawks defence, his shot hitting a defender and departing for a corner.

It was a high-tempo, no-holds-barred opening with plenty of strong tackling and quick passing. Although Joash Nembhard had taken plenty of Dominic Poleon’s shirt in the first 15 minutes, it was Josh Passley who was first into the referee’s book after a to-and-fro tussle with Cundle.

The Fleet No.15’s next move was an excellent crossfield ball to Poleon who almost found Bingham lurking in the six-yard box but Havant cleared. Haydn Hollis was well-placed on 21 minutes as Danny Wright looked to find Faal in acres of space in the box but the Fleet defender’s timely foot in mopped that up.

It was a game that might have swung either way but the pendulum fell for the Fleet first. It came from Sterling’s foray down the right and while he seemed to have gone too far towards the byline, he played it back to Bingham whose pass on to the opposite post found Poleon lurking and with some measure of nonchalance, he tapped it past Teddy Sharman-Lowe.

Cousins tipped away a shot and then a couple of corners in quick succession but saved his best moment to push Charlie Ruff’s dangerous free-kick from the edge of the box over.

You couldn’t take your eye off the game for a second – next up was Christian N’Guessan with a smashing run through the midfield, feeding Poleon out wide with a well-measured pass but Sharman-Lowe gathered that one much to the frustration of Dennis Kutrieb on the bench.

Bingham’s wonderful shift of gears five minutes from half-time almost allowed Cundle to play in Edser but he couldn’t get a strong boot on the chance before Sterling went down under Jake McCarthy’s challenge in the box but the referee waved play on.

Into the second period and the Fleet opened positively, Bingham slipping a pass into Edser’s path but he had too many yellow shirts around him to really threaten Sharman-Lowe.

Like the first-half, it was another end-to-end affair, Chris Solly performing a brilliant saving tackle on the dangerous, fast Faal who was homing in on Cousins.

Luke O’Neill claimed a handball moments later that wasn’t given but Fleet got a spot-kick awarded with the next attack when Sterling flew down the right and was bundled over by Joe Newton. The referee took a long look before awarding it, much to Havant’s dismay. Bingham struck it, a low effort to the keeper’s left but Sharman-Lowe got down well to grab and hold it and 1-0 it remained.

Bingham’s next contribution was a pass back into Edser that had Sharman-Lowe sprawling at his feet but again the on-loan Chelsea goalkeeper held it. The Fleet’s No.9 was central to much of the home side’s attacking play and he had another effort blocked before getting in the way of Sterling’s effort on target after some tricky exhibitions from the winger.

Havant were always a threat, however, and Faal hooked a shot goalwards from a sweeping move on 63 minutes but again the leaping Cousins couldn’t be beaten, despite a deflection that might have set him off course. Both keepers were on top form and Sharman-Lowe was again agile enough to stop Poleon in his tracks after another bustling run into the Havant box.

Fleet were thankful for Hollis – or at least his face which took the brunt of a shot – in a nerve-shredding goalmouth scramble as Faal had two attempts before Cousins palmed another effort clear and the red shirts eventually cleared their lines.

There was incredible workrate from both sides in the final 15 minutes, inevitably leading to a flurry of cautions as tackles were put in and tempers occasionally boiled over, but there was always the feeling Fleet needed that second goal. And while Havant huffed and puffed up front as they tried to take the game to the Fleet in search of the equaliser, the home side’s second goal did indeed arrive.

Late though it may have been, it was worth the wait. Domi, chasing a ball through midfield, initially appeared to have lost it but his determination kept him moving forward, and as he took the ball with him he surged through the Havant defence past Nembhard all the way to goal, leaving the ball over the line and finally past Sharman-Lowe once more.

It was a fitting climax to what would have been one of the most exciting 1-0 wins in recent memory – and the second goal was the icing on the cake, delivering Fleet’s first home win over Havant for six and a half years.

EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill, Hollis, Solly, N’Guessan, Wright (Domi 74), Sterling-James (McQueen 90), Cundle, Edser (Romain 89), Bingham, Poleon. Subs: Chapman, Coulthirst
HWFC: Sharman-Lowe, Passley, Newton, Oastler, Nembhard, McCarthy, Miller-Rodney, Wright (Roberts 64), Faal, Burnett, Ruff (Matthews 73). Subs: Rooney, Shroll, Collins
Attendance: 1,681

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