FLEET ALL BUT ENSURE SURVIVAL AS YUSSUFF SCORES FIRST GOAL…
EBBSFLEET UNITED 2-1 LEWES (Yussuff, Sole, pen)
Report by Ed Miller
A further three points to push Fleet almost to the line of safety was
all that mattered this afternoon against already-relegated Lewes though
it was a far from vintage performance that did it. Not that Liam Daish
will care given his side now has a recently unheard-of three days rest
before a trip to Histon brings the season ever nearer to a close. It
was a side unchanged from Saturday’s defeat at Stevenage that took to
the field for this Bank Holiday clash against a Lewes side missing
influential skipper Danny Cullip through suspension.
Once again Michael West began proceedings full of youthful enthusiasm
and he and Ricky Shakes were the chief tormentors for the Fleet, West
comfortable on the ball and making intelligent use of it when he got
it. One such run on six minutes saw him get the better of Sam Fisk down
the right but the Lewes defender’s deliberate handball stopped him in
his tracks – and unusually, given the flurry of yellow cards later
produced, the referee did not even feel the need to speak to him.
The first yellow card came eight minutes later when Sacha Opinel headed
wide to Mark Ricketts who could do little with it but play Darius
Charles into danger and Charles was forced to body check Tim Rivers as
the Lewes striker ran through on goal. With the Fleet still attempting
to play too much football in the final third, West was the only one to
take things by the scruff of the neck and he had a decent shot saved by
goalkeeper Rikki Banks on 23 minutes. Shakes also found himself through
the Lewes back line after beating off the attentions of two defenders
but he was sprinting away from goal and rather scuffed a shot that presented no problems for Banks.
As the Fleet grew frustrated in front of goal so Lewes upped their game
and on 32 minutes should have taken the lead when Michael Standing’s
free kick was floated into the danger area and Chris Breach somehow
sent a stooping header wide of the post with the Fleet defenders around
him nowhere near the ball. Opinel, who received his 14th yellow card of
the season in that free-kick incident, lasted only another four minutes
having endured a torrid first half and the frustrated Frenchman made
way for Dean Pooley, with Charles slotting into the left-back position.
With Lewes sensing another win after their Saturday victory over
Weymouth, they got their noses in front on 41 minutes. Luke Rooney’s
shot was put over the bar by Lance Cronin and from Standing’s corner,
Josh Jirbandey connected at the near post and hooked a shot into the
bottom corner of the net.
Shakes had another effort saved by Banks before the Fleet made the most
of three minutes of time added on. A long ball from Pooley found Gash
lurking on the edge of the box and as he backed into Breach, the
referee blew for a foul – quite a surprise for home fans who are always
more used to Gash being penalised in such situations. Rashid Yussuff
smashed a poor free-kick against the Lewes wall but as it rebounded to
him, he despatched a clinical low shot through the emerging gap in the
Lewes blockade that squeezed past Banks and into the goal.
Saved an ear-chewing from their manager at half-time, the Fleet came
out a little more positively though Gash was fortunate to emerge from a
clash with Breach on 50 minutes that saw the Lewes defender stretchered
off. Rooney went looking for a penalty for Lewes a little later when he
went down under Leon Crooks’ challenge but the referee indicated that
the Fleet man had won the ball. On the hour, an unfortunate West made
way for Giuseppe Sole, though the substitution would prove to be
pivotal to Fleet’s fortunes.
But before Sole’s moment, Gash had a header fly wide and a Yussuff
corner just evaded Long before Banks gathered. Then on 70 minutes, Gash
again created the opening for a Fleet goal as he used his strength to
hold off the challenge of Fisk and turn the ball into Sole’s path who
with a clear run on goal was then brought down by Fisk. Sole picked
himself up to fire the penalty beyond the dive of Banks for his sixth
goal in Fleet colours.
The Fleet played out time without too much bother with Ibe coming on
late in the game for Gash, who had appeared to be limping through much
of the second half after his earlier clash with Breach. Shakes
deservedly picked up another man of the match award as he easily looked
Fleet’s most dangerous player, though Jamie Stevens also looked solid
at right back.
TEAM: Cronin, Stevens, Crooks, Charles, Opinel (Pooley 36), Yussuff, West (Sole 59), Ricketts, Long, Gash (Ibe 88), Shakes.
Subs not used: Mott, Purcell.