Fleet came from behind for the second game running to overcome Dulwich Hamlet to all but clinch a play-off place in May. Rakish Bingham scored the winner in the second half in a competitive 90 minutes after what appeared to be Shaq Coulthirst getting a final touch before hitting the goalkeeper’s shin on a pinball moment to seal the equaliser.
There were no changes for the Fleet following last weekend’s 4-2 win at Welling on a sunny Good Friday afternoon in front of a 1,329 crowd.
And the home side were off to a flyer when Craig Tanner drove through the middle and Rakish Bingham tested Charlie Grainger with a shot. Grainger also got to a header when Jack Paxman nodded on a ball into the box.
It was the visitors who opened the scoring on 10 minutes, however, after Chris Solly had conceded a free-kick. Giovanni McGregor took it and it skewed off Ronnie Vint to wrong-foot Louie Moulden and Hamlet were ahead. McGregor might have helped create a second when he played Jordan Green through but the Fleet defence hustled the Dulwich man wide and cut off his route to goal.
But Fleet’s belief kept them plugging away and Ben Chapman embarked on a fantastic run forward on 10 minutes that ended with him crossing from the far side of the box to Tanner whose header looped wide.
And the equaliser came two minutes later as a corner found Solly whose low shot through a crowd was cleared off the line by Quade Taylor. Coulthirst followed up, his shot hitting the post and as players piled in, Coulthirst’s next touch bounced off Grainger’s shin and through Taylor’s legs and in.
Another buoyant attack on the half-hour saw Tanner’s eventual cross cut out and as Dulwich threatened to get away on the break, it took a well-timed challenge by Christian N’Guessan to bring them to a halt. Bingham supplied Coulthirst for another Fleet chance that curled on target but only into the arms of Grainger who then launched a Dulwich attack that his opposite number had to steal away from Green inside the Fleet box.
There was an exchange of several yellow cards as both sides didn’t buckle in the challenge, though former Fleet midfielder Michael Timlin drew the crowd’s ire when he clattered Paxman in front of the Main Stand. And the half closed with good work between Bingham and Paxman that rolled over Coulthirst’s foot in the six-yard box.
Emerging all level after the break, it was a slow start to the second 45. Paxman shot just wide of the post on 52 minutes after another noteworthy Tanner run through midfield before Alex Finney got an important head to a cross at the other end. N’Guessan also intervened ahead of Moulden as Tyrone Sterling lurked 10 yards out, waiting for a ball to bounce.
Sterling was at the centre of the next incident when Chapman’s scintillating sprint forward past three players saw his final ball just bounce away from him. As Chapman stretched to keep possession, Sterling went to ground to earn the Fleet player a booking, much to the crowd’s consternation.
Green went down under a Finney challenge on 64 minutes that saw the visitors protest vociferously but the referee waved that aside and claims were equal a while later when Chapman’s appeal in the other box fell on deaf ears.
Fleet should have led on 65 minutes when Paxman and Bingham combined to roll the ball across to substitute Dominic Poleon in a shooting position but his effort lacked power. Frustrated, the Fleet kept on the front foot and the winner arrived three minutes later, Paxman and Bingham again testing the Dulwich defence, the home No.9 firing off a fine strike that was goalbound from the moment it left his foot.
The visitors struggled to make any real inroads up front in search of a route back into the game and it was the Fleet who might have added another goal late on when a neat move was spread to the right for Chapman to send a shot across goal that Grainger palmed away.
The three points keeps Fleet in fourth, 15 points clear of eight place with five games remaining – and the first of those in Essex at Concord Rangers this Bank Holiday Monday.
EUFC: Moulden, Jombati, Solly, Finney, Chapman, N’Guessan, Tanner (J.Martin 90), Romain, Paxman, Coulthirst (Poleon 57), Bingham (L.Martin 83). Subs not used: Haigh, Domi
DHFC: Grainger, Higgs (Barnum-Bobb 66), Sterling, Taylor, Vint, Holland, Green (Sekajja 74), Timlin, McQueen, McGregor, Ming (Kandi 46). Subs not used: Olomowewe, Mills