Fleet 2-0 Swindon S

MICHAEL GASH SCORES A BRACE IN FRONT OF ALMOST 4,000 FANS TO PUT FLEET IN LAST EIGHT…



EBBSFLEET UNITED 2-0 SWINDON SUPERMARINE

The Fleet remained unbeaten at Stonebridge Road this year as a
second-half brace from top scorer Michael Gash was enough to see off a
spirited challenge from Swindon Supermarine. With the MyFC-sponsored
free admission policy resulting in the Fleet’s second highest gate of
the last 18 years, the Fleet kept their nerve to progress into the last
eight of the FA Carlsberg Trophy for the fourth time under Liam Daish.

Following Tuesday night’s fine performance, Daish resisted any
temptation to alter his starting XI, though Luke Moore replaced George
Purcell on the Fleet bench. The Fleet and their opponents emerged to an
unfamiliar sight, with three sides of Stonebridge Road almost full to
capacity and the away end shared between visiting supporters and a few
home fans who braved the cold to watch their side attack the Swanscombe
End in the first half.

But
refusing to be overawed from the start, the boys in blue almost
silenced the crowd from the off when Ashley Edenborough and Steve Cook
combined down the right and got behind the Fleet defence to cross but
Alan Griffin was unable to capitalise. From that attack, the Fleet
broke upfield immediately, Gash laying a fine ball into the path of
Stacy Long who raced clear of the Supermarine midfield but chose to
shoot towards the bottom corner and force Matt Bulman into a save
rather than turning inside the defender as most fans expected him to.

With
such a start the stage seemed set for a classic cup tie but the Fleet
struggled to find any real rhythm to their play with only Jamie Hand
appearing to have carried his performance over from Tuesday. Ricky
Shakes saw plenty of the ball down the Fleet right and the home side
had a measure of width but couldn’t create any sort of telling final
pass. Corners came and went but Supermarine looked settled enough at
the back – though when the Fleet did play it on the ground and play it
quicky, they did threaten. Giuseppe Sole ghosted in between two
defenders to plant a shot at Bulman from close range and Neil Barrett
let a wild shot fly off his boot with only the goalkeeper to beat after
Hand’s perfectly timed pass outwitted the defence. James Smith should
also have hit the target when he headed wide at the far post from a
free kick.

Those chances aside, however, it was the visitors who were constantly
looking to nose in front. Top scorer Griffin was well-handled by Smith
and Leon Crooks but down the Fleet left, Cook and Edenborough were
finding width and at one point Cook looked to be clean through only to
be nudged in the back by Duncan, an incident that was fortunately
overlooked by the referee. With better finishing, the visitors could
have taken a shock lead and Lance Cronin had to be alert to get down to
save from Nick Stanley while Griffin thumped a shot into the hoardings
with the goalkeeper out of position. And late on the Fleet had another
let-off when Chris Thompson’s chip outwitted Crooks and Chris Taylor,
in a great position, scooped the ball into Cronin’s hands.

But
having avoided giving ground to an energetic first-half performance
from the British Gas Business League side, the Fleet emerged more
positive in the second half with Daish’s exhortations to get more of a
grip on proceedings ringing in their ears. Duncan clamped down on
Cook’s threat down the right and without him as outlet, the visitors
were gradually pushed back. Shakes twice carved out opportunities on
the flanks and sent in crosses that managed to evade a Fleet forward.
Yet the pressure was beginning to tell and on 55 minutes the Fleet
enjoyed a 10-minute spell of total ascendancy.

It was Gash who kick-started it. Receiving the ball 35 yards out, he
turned his marker and played a crossfield ball into the path of Ricky
Shakes. The Fleet winger advanced into the box and hit a shot that
goalkeeper Bulman parried but Gash was there again, and picking up the
loose ball, he bided his time and shot home when the opening presented
itself.

The relieved Fleet fans didn’t have long to wait for their side to
double the lead. On 59 minutes, a high ball into the box saw Leon
Crooks head against the crossbar and in a crowded six-yard box, Gash
rose at the far post before anyone else to sneak a header into the top
corner. The goals knocked the stuffing out of the visitors and the
Fleet began to impose their game. Daish refused to settle for two and
he sent Moore on to replace Shakes and the Fleet striker benefitted
from the full range of Hand’s passing, time and again getting free down
the right to bamboozle Joe Harris.

As the Marine tired, Fleet began to produce attacks from both wings.
Sole, somewhat quieter than on Tuesday having been well-marshalled by
the impressive visiting skipper Kyle Lapham, managed to conjure a mazy
run to leave Lapham on the floor but shot at Bulman. And good work
between Hand and Sole saw Moore released

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