Fleet earned their fifth draw in seven games as Shane Huke’s last-gasp equaliser cancelled out former Fleet midfielder Neil Barrett’s header and ended the home side’s 100% record on their own patch.
Ebbsfleet made two changes to the side that drew against Bath, Michael Thalassitis returning from warmer climes to a drizzly Camrose, which meant Alex Osborn dropping to the bench, while Stacy Long made way for Dean Rance.
And that decision seemed to be vindicated with less than three minutes on the clock when Rance’s long-range effort escaped the attentions of former Dartford goalkeeper Louis Wells whose touch couldn’t prevent its inexorable path to goal.
Fleet’s first-half superirority had a familiar ring about it, as the home side – looking for their fourth win in as many home matches – were out of sorts and unable to get going in midfield where Daryl McMahon and Anthony Cook’s neat passing into Thalassitis gave the men in white the edge.
Cook and Billy Bricknell both went close, producing a couple of noteworthy saves from Wells, while McMahon and Michael Corcoran saw their efforts whistle just wide of the post. At the other end, Basingstoke failed to trouble the Fleet defence unduly though Edwards turned away a Robbie Williams effort and the former Fleet pairing of Wes Daly and Kezie Ibe contrived to fashion a chance that Paul Lorraine snuffed out, with home fans optimistically shouting for a penalty.
But they had more to cheer from the half hour mark as the Fleet’s lack of a second goal gave Basingstoke a glimmer of hope. They built on that and on 35 minutes, Manny Williams’ well-taken strike across Edwards’ goal from 12 yards produced an equaliser.
Disappointed by that setback, Fleet came out in the second and produced a spirited opening, Rance trying a repeat performance of his first-half heroics but seeing his shot go wide, while Bricknell was again thwarted by Wells in the home goal. And Bricknell came closest again near the hour point, when he met Cook’s cross with a header that came back off the crossbar.
Wells continued to form a considerable barrier, then denying Thalassitis and Bricknell with two fine saves, until the game settled into something of a lull as Fleet’s ascendancy waned. And when Barrett headed home Daly’s corner with 12 minutes on the clock, Fleet fans were left cursing their luck once more.
Osborn entered the fray as Steve Brown sacrificed Bricknell but with the home side shutting up shop, the Fleet could do little to claw their way back into the game. That was until the fourth minute of time added on when a goalmouth scramble saw Huke’s timely arrival pay off and the unlikely top scorer managed to force the ball over the line to rescue a point.
TEAM: Edwards, Howe, Palmer, Corcoran (Green 56), Lorraine, Huke, Rance, McMahon, Thalassitis, Bricknell (Osborn 78), Cook. Subs not used: Hall, Long, Sankofa