Fleet 2-0 Sevenoaks Town

It was perhaps fitting in a week Fleet bid farewell to the late Cliff Robinson that in the 61st minute of his standing ovation, on came Greg Cundle who would a few minutes later make the crucial breakthrough to guide a passage into Round One.

Sevenoaks’ stout resistance to that point had kept the Fleet waiting and the tie very much in the balance, despite the home side’s dominance. And the visitors kept plugging away with a couple of their own opportunities, only finally wilting when Dominic Poleon’s close-range effort made it 2-0 on 90 minutes.

The Fleet posted six changes from last week’s win against Taunton Town, while Alex Finney returned to the squad for the first time since the win at Eastbourne to take a place on the bench.

The visitors lined up as they did in their excellent win at Bath City, former Fleet full-back Karn Miller-Neave starting this afternoon on the spot where his senior career began.

Sevenoaks were dealt a blow when their chief threat Ryan Gondoh limped off with barely four minutes of the game gone. Fleet attempted to exert early control with Franklin Domi forward a lot trying to feed Jack Paxman and Ben Chapman either side of his runs at the Sevenoaks defence deep towards their box.

From a foul on Domi, Sido Jombati curled a delicate free-kick towards the inside of the post that was sent behind for a corner. On 10 minutes, Shaq Coulthirst’s trickery allowed Chapman to loft a deep cross towards Poleon at the far post but Sevenoaks managed to steer that one clear of the Fleet striker.

Toby Edser went closer in the 12th minute, his shot giving the crossbar a considerable wobble, while Coulthirst got along the byline to fire one on target but Matthew Weaire cleared that off his goalline.

Sevenoaks had a sturdy back line of five when Fleet came forward and they were quick and firm into a tackle or two that earned warm encouragement from their bench. And the Isthmian side might have taken a shock lead on 23 minutes when Yahya Bamba’s movement down the right allowed a swift delivery into substitute Freddie Parker. He dinked the ball beyond Cousins who made a superb one-handed save but just as it seemed it was still going to head towards the line, Jombati swept across to the rescue.

Fleet were back on the attack moments later, Paxman’s shot from Coulthirst’s back-heel dealt with by Mannie Mensah before Coulthirst was denied six yards out from Chapman’s quick pass by goalkeeper Tyler McCarthy.

A minor flashpoint between Poleon and Jordy Ndozid resulted in a yellow card apiece once the referee had regained control of the bust-up, before Chapman’s head on the end of a dangerous Fleet move was thwarted by McCarthy whose great reaction save diverted the ball over the bar.

Sevenoaks would have been encouraged by their sticking power and when the lively Bamba got down the other wing on 35 minutes, he saw a chance bounce into the side netting.

There was plenty of the customary quick interchanges and nimble footwork from the Fleet as the triangles on the edge of the box kept Sevenoaks busy but the visitors continued to defend stoutly towards half-time.

But that wasn’t quite the whole story of the first-half as there was time just before the 45 minutes were up for Miller-Neave to strike a free-kick from a similar position where he scored for the Fleet eight years ago. He didn’t score from this but it sailed on to the head of Corey Holder and he planted it to the right of Cousins and into the net – thankfully offside as far as the Fleet were concerned.

Dominic Poleon added another to his tally late on as Fleet progressed

Craig Tanner replaced Christian N’Guessan at the break, the midfielder having received treatment on a knock sustained in the first-half. And Tanner supplied Chapman for a shot two minutes in that climbed too high before Edser did the same with a cheeky lob after the goalkeeper had hit a poor clearance at him.

Mensah had a jinking run into the Fleet box on 52 minutes but was surrounded by three red shirts who blocked his path. At the other end, Jombati raced on to a ball that sat up nicely for him, sending a half-volley skimming just over the crossbar.

Fleet were beginning to look frustrated when the game-changing substitution was made on 61 minutes as Fleet fans rose in appreciation of Cliff Robinson – and with almost his first touch of the game, Cundle broke the deadlock.

Coulthirst supplied the ammo, his turn and touch carrying into the path of Cundle who sped through from his left-wing berth to rifle a low drive into the corner.

The Fleet bench was incensed five minutes later when Poleon crafted a lob on goal with McCarthy out of position and off his line but a rather dubious offside flag called time on that. McQueen tried to dig out a second goal with a smart cross high into the six-yard box that was headed away with Poleon lurking.

Cundle had a chance for a second from Coulthirst’s help again 10 minutes from time but sent his shot wide from a first-time effort. Coulthirst had a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0 himself moments later when sent through by an excellent Tanner pass but although he outpaced Holder, he dragged his shot wide.

The second did come, however, and it arrived right on 90 minutes, Domi with the hard work out wide to cut along the line and thread a ball across for Poleon to convert from close range, much like his goal at the other end against Taunton the week before.

With the room to breathe, Fleet went in search of a third in the five minutes of added time and Coulthirst once more wasn’t far off with the final kick of the game. And with that, Round One beckoned for a second season with all eyes on BBC Two at 7pm on Monday, for ball no.68 in the live draw.

For Sevenoaks, it was just that little step too far. But they boasted a record-breaking effort in the competition this season plus bowed out with pride and a strong performance having given the Fleet more trouble than many league opponents – and they can take with them plenty of memories from this season’s FA Cup.

EUFC: Cousins, Domi, Solly, Jombati, Chapman, N’Guessan (Tanner 46), Paxman (Cundle 61), McQueen, Edser (Bingham 83), Poleon, Coulthirst. Subs: Sterling-James, Romain, Finney, Firth
STFC: McCarthy, Bamba, Miller-Neave, Olurunnisomo, Weaire, Holder, De Silva (Wilson 78), Ndozid (Graham 46), Hector, Gondoh (Parker 4), Mensah. Subs: Johnson, Rose
Attendance: 1,304

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