Fleet 2-1 Rochdale

Dominic Samuel came off the bench to fire a winner in time added on that brought the Fleet to a point of their opponents and continued the unbeaten run under Danny Searle in fine style.

Rochdale’s first visit to the Kuflink Stadium – and defeat – made them the first side to lose both games to the Fleet this season as the reds completed a double over the Dale.

Searle named an unchanged side once again and Bryant Bilongo was busy from the start, sending an effort at Tiernan Brooks on two minutes and then getting away on the break to send over a cross that Luke O’Neill eventually saw charged down.

Rochdale had a good 10-minute spell after that but fell behind after a defensive error on 15 minutes. Rakish Bingham piled the pressure on Rochdale keeper Brooks to force him into playing a soft ball across the box but it was into the path of Dominic Poleon who couldn’t miss an open net for his 15th goal of the campaign. 

More exciting play from Bilongo on 23 minutes saw him get the ball up and over the Rochdale defence and his cross into Poleon was blocked and cleared.

There were promising signs for a second for the home side but they didn’t create another solid chance before Rochdale were back in it against the run of play on 41 minutes. Jimmy Keohane got a run down the right after a clever ball in behind the Fleet defence and his cross was slid home by Kairo Mitchell. 

Toby Edser came close to restoring the lead in first-half stoppage time when his header from Josh Wright’s delivery went just the wrong side of the post. 

The second half saw the visitors start stronger and substitute Jesurun Uchegbulam took advantage of an O’Neill slip to get across the Fleet box before Cian Hayes’ low shot was collected by Mark Cousins. The Fleet grew back into the game after that and twice Ben Chapman launched brilliant forward balls into the path of Poleon that were both inches offside. Chapman then made an excellent interception to fire a cross at Bilongo whose effort was sent for a corner.

Mitchell had a chance for his second of the afternoon for Rochdale with 20 minutes left but Cousins was able to stop that and it was Dale’s only real chance before Fleet were back in search of a winner. Billy Clifford found Bilongo with a great pass and as he tried to get it in to Poleon in the six-yard box, Ethan Ebanks-Landell slid in well to force another corner.

Bingham’s 82nd minute shot won another corner before the Fleet then had two claims for penalties. First, Bilongo nutmegged Keohane down the left and made it into the box before appearing to be upended by the Rochdale player and then Samuel found Wright at the corner of the box. He pulled a shot back towards the middle that seemed to hit Cameron John on the arm but again the referee gave nothing.

In between, John sent the ball on to the top of the Fleet bar from a deep cross but the crucial moment was still to come. With four minutes extra signalled, Chapman’s delivery bounced back off Ebanks-Landell’s heel for Samuel to slam it into the side of the goal with Brooks stranded.

The Plough End erupted as the goal kept the Fleet ahead of the chasing pack and reeled in a few above in the league table as well.

EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill (White 70), Kenlock, Skura, Wright, Clifford, Chapman, Bilongo, Eder (CIssé 84) Bingham, Poleon (Samuel 77). Subs: McQueen, Fogarty
RAFC: Brooks, Gordon, John, East, Ebanks-Landell, Clayton, Mitchell, Rodney (Uchegbulam 52), Keohane, Nevett (Henderson 90), Hayes. Subs: Sassi, Armstrong, Mather
Attendance: 1,723 (170 Rochdale)
Winning 50/50 ticket: 08551

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