A game 27 years in the making for Sheppey United saw a healthy number of visiting supporters make the trek to Stonebridge Road but their side just couldn’t find a crucial goal in the second half as Fleet progressed in this Kent Reliance Senior Cup tie.
It was 1989 when last these clubs faced off and Daryl McMahon put together a strong enough side to line up alongside himself and Stacy Long, with several first-team squad players plus some ‘old hands’ from the first academy intake such as Boulding, Miller-Neave and Mitch Chapman (formerly Liddle).
The game was barely two minutes old when Sheppey midfielder James Simmonds was forced to make way for Timmy Babbington but it wasn’t a bad swap as the substitute showed some pace and willingness to get forward early on.
Fleet were calm and composed on the ball with Kissock, McMahon and Long spraying it from side to side and the Fleet boss in particular was always looking for the ball beyond the back line to set Bradley Bubb free. But without the ball, Fleet looked a little more vulnerable and Sheppey were able to break quickly through right winger Enoch Adjei and front man David Abe who stretched the home defence with sporadic attacks.
Jonathan Miles was down well to a sixth-minute effort from Abe but Fleet finally unlocked the Sheppey defence with one of those balls through the defence on 19 minutes. Long and McMahon combined well in midfield and when the telling ball was finally played, it landed with Charlie Sheringham in the clear and he just had to pick his spot and keep it on target for 1-0.
The visitors attempted a reply straight away and Miles did well to push a hefty Abe shot over the bar on 23 minutes. Hardly a minute later and Sheppey thought they had equalised when George Batten’s effort thundered down off the bar and hit the line where Miles gathered it. With the Fleet keeper under pressure on the floor, it seemed the referee had awarded the goal but instead had blown for a foul on Miles in the aftermath.
Kissock departed on 32 minutes after taking a knock, to be replaced by James Miles and he was soon in the thick of things, felled by a rash tackle on the right touchline courtesy of Joseph Fornah.
Fleet were slowly turning the screw for a second goal and McMahon’s nicely floated corner was on a plate for Sheringham but he headed wide. Sheringham then drew a save from goalkeeper Dean Warford who managed to recover his footing in time to thwart Miller-Neave’s follow-up.
The visiting keeper was beaten again on 36 minutes, however. Another McMahon corner dipped into the six-yard box and evaded everyone except Reiss Greenidge who seemed to force the ball over the line with a knee.
The second half was a muted affair as Sheppey pressed to regain a foothold while the Fleet soaked up any pressure that was thrown their way. The visitors did find a way through on 53 minutes, however, when last season’s top scorer Abe raced onto a pass and finished very well with a powerful shot beyond Miles.
Adjei shot narrowly wide for Sheppey and then Dan Bradshaw managed to aim a header wide of the post from close range with the goal gaping. For the Fleet, Bradley Bubb threatened to dribble his way into the box on two occasions and James Miles warmed the goalkeeper’s hands with a good strike from 15 yards.
Warford was just ahead of Bubb as the Fleet striker played a neat one-two with Long inside the penalty area before Sheringham’s looping cross was met by Miller-Neave whose first-time shot into the ground bounced up over the bar in the home side’s best opportunity of the second half.
Fleet will now be away to Ramsgate of the Ryman Division One South in the second round, date to be confirmed.
EUFC: Jonathan Miles, Boulding, Miller-Neave, Chapman, Greenidge, Atkinson, Long, McMahon (Forrest 80), Sheringham, Bubb, Kissock (James Miles 32). Subs not used: Nourse, Wood, Eboda
SUFC: Warford, Huggins, Fornah, Harrold, Saunders, G Batten, Adjei, Bradshaw, Abe, I Batten, Simmonds (Babbington 2). Subs not used: Oluwasre, Okubote, Okundailaya, Gransden