It was eight straight wins on the road for visitors Hampton & Richmond Borough before Tuesday night’s clash at the Kuflink Stadium – but Fleet ended that impressive record with a win that enhanced their own prospects in the league table.
All the action in terms of goals came in the first half, with Rakish Bingham reaching double figures for the season and Alfie Egan adding a second before David Fisher’s second effort this season against the Fleet shortly before the break gave Hampton a platform to attack in the second half.
The Fleet unveiled two new signings before kick-off, Huddersfield loanee goalkeeper Giosue Bellagambi going straight into the side for the injured Jordan Holmes, while former Leeds United and AFC Wimbledon striker Dominic Poleon was on the subs’ bench.
Skipper Lee Martin was also back in the side after injury and the birthday boy seemed determined to celebrate with a goal, his 4th minute shot saved by Alan Julian the first real flurry of attacking play.
Bingham drew another save from Julian as he squeezed a shot from a high bounce in the box. At the other end, the first threat to new goalkeeper Bellagambi came from Ruaridh Donaldson who was only 12 yards out but arrowed his shot over the bar under pressure from Jake Goodman.
Fleet were knocking it about well in midfield and keeping Hampton chasing the ball but it was the visitors who should probably have opened the scoring on 11 minutes when Donaldson’s inviting cross from the left byline sat up for Sam Deadfield and his low volley screwed wide of the post.
But it was the home side instead who took the initiative on 19 minutes. Martin did the hard work, carrying the ball to the edge of the box in a mazy run. His shot was parried by Julian but only to the feet of Bingham to the left of the six-yard box and the Fleet top scorer hit it high into the net between Sam Cox on the line and the flailing Julian.
Buoyed by the goal, Fleet almost had another seven minutes later. Good approach play instigated by James Dobson ended with Bingham slipping a pass into the box to Bobby-Joe Taylor who timed his run between two defenders but hooked a swinging shot across the face of goal.
The second goal arrived 10 minutes before half-time, however. A quickly taken Dobson throw-in was accepted by Jack Paxman who found Egan in just enough space for the midfielder to get away a deceptive shot from 18 yards that zipped the right side of the near post, out of Julian’s reach.
An excellent one-two between Tobi Adebayo-Rowling and Bingham might have produced a third, Adebyao-Rowling surging forward to draw a save from Julian and then another from the second ball.
As it was, Hampton forced their way back into the game two minutes from the break. A deep Kyron Farrell cross from the left was met by two Hampton players and David Fisher – who scored the winner against the Fleet three weeks ago – did well to climb highest and get enough on a header into the top corner to reduce the arrears.
Fleet began the second half in a positive frame of mind, a couple of Martin runs looking to pick the lock, while substitute Adam Mekki’s drive from short range was blocked by Julian. Martin’s short corner to Paxman was then driven across goal, bouncing in the six-yard box but wide.
There was a brief coming together of players following Bellagambi’s tackle a distance outside his box and then Paxman was felled in the aftermath by Tyrell Miller-Rodney who was cautioned for his involvement.
Hampton kept pressing as the half wore on and Farrell’s free-kick was well blocked by Bellagambi but Muir should have done much better with the rebound than swipe it over the bar.
Back came the Fleet and Adebayo-Rowling might have tried his luck from 20 yards but instead squared it for Martin whose vicious shot was well saved by Julian and cleared.
Julian could only watch 12 minutes from the end as an incisive passing move ended with Egan playing Martin through and the skipper launched a shot across the goalframe but it ran free and out.
Poleon was only on the field two minutes when he showed his pace, bringing down Bellagambi’s long goal-kick and exchanging passes with Bingham before haring into the box well ahead of Dean Inman but the former Maidenhead defender got across well with a recovery tackle.
Bellagambi was down very well to a Jake Gray shot as Hampton packed the Fleet box and the visitors’ best chance came two minutes from time, Farrell’s strong run finding Gray whose through ball to Muir put the former Hartlepool man in the clear but he rolled a shot wide of the far post with space aplenty to take advantage of.
Poleon’s pace was to the fore again late on when Egan’s ball upfield looked to present little threat but the new signing accelerated past Donaldson, rode his challenge to gain ground in the box but Julian made a good block with his hand.
It was an improved display from Hampton in the second half but Fleet defended well when required to and might have found the third goal that in the event they didn’t need as they saw the game out for the three points.
EUFC: Bellagambi, Adebayo-Rowling, B. Taylor, Kahraman, Goodman, Dobson (Mekki 46), Payne (West 63), Egan, Paxman, Bingham, Martin (Poleon 77). Subs not used: Allen, Wood
HRBFC: Julian, Donaldson, Inman, Wassmer (Carvalho 74), Cox, Deadfield (Miller-Rodney 46), Gray, Fisher (Minhas 74), Farrell, Vilhete, Muir. Subs not used: Brown, Smith