Fleet 2-2 Hemel Hempstead

Fleet recovered from an early goal conceded then saw their own lead disappear as they took only a draw from the first visit to Stonebridge Road of Hemel Hempstead Town.

Jamie Day set his men up in a 4-3-3 with the returned Matt Godden playing wide on the right in place of the injured Brendan Kiernan, while Matt Fish returned in place of the suspended Kenny Clark.

But with 1,600-plus in the ground as part of Community Day, Fleet’s start was less then impressive. Only four minutes in, Dennis Oli worked the ball down the left flank and sent a high cross into the box where the tallest man on the field, Oliver Hawkins, rose unopposed to plant a header to the right of Preston Edwards.

It was yet another soft and early goal but Fleet responded well. A cross into Tom Bonner saw his header nodded on again by Gooden, but goalkeeper Laurie Walker managed to block from close range. Danny Kedwell then hit a low shot which skidded off the surface and troubled Walker who spilled it round the post for a corner.

Fleet equalised on 12 minutes with a well-worked build-up, Sean Shields racing free down the left, cutting inside from the byline and delivering a low pass into the six-yard box which Kedwell tucked past Walker as he slid in. It was no less than the home side deserved courtesy of some nice approach work and they had 25 minutes of dominance after that.

Kedwell could have bagged an impressive second when, with Walker having strayed off his line to clear the ball, he attempted to lob the goalkeeper only yards from the halfway line, the ball bouncing inside the box and just off target to deny him a contender for Fleet’s goal the season.

Walker was in action again to deny Godden, the ball just falling out of Kedwell’s reach as Hemel’s early bright start looked to have faded. Nonetheless, the visitors picked things up as the half drew to a close and Fleet were thankful to nose ahead six minutes from the break. Moments after blazing a good chance over the bar, Godden’s persistence paid off as he intercepted a ball from Jordan Brown, dug it out of Moussa Diarra’s path and created enough space to loose off a shot that eluded the outstretched arm of Walker to give Fleet a lead.

Kedwell, who had been limping heavily after colliding with the wall just before Godden’s goal, was unable to carry on in the second half and was replaced by Dean Rance. The ex-Gillingham striker’s loss, however, seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Fleet and they failed to produce much of note in the second half.

And just seven minutes in, the visitors were back on level terms. Kelvin Langmead checked Hawkins’ progress 25 yards out, getting himself rather harshly booked in the process. Up stepped top scorer and skipper Jordan Parkes, a player the Fleet management had warned against allowing him a shot at goal. Unfortunately, there was little the home defence could do against his free-kick that cleared the wall and flew into the top corner to give Preston Edwards, celebrating his 200th game, little chance.

Straight away, Adam Cunnington almost repeated the trick, cracking a free-kick off the Hemel bar but that was as much a chance as Fleet fashioned for the remainder of the game. Fleet did attack and pushed the visitors back into the final third, but there was little to trouble Walker until Theo Lewis ran onto a perfect through ball from Fish but couldn’t quite work it over the goalkeeper. A similar chance was created by Godden who sent Cunnington clean through as the Hemel defence waited for an offside flag but the Fleet striker seemed to take an age to latch onto it and Ed Asafu-Adjaye got across to clear.

Hemel looked quick going forward but they restricted their attacks to a handful and Edwards was as equally under-employed as his opposite number. Theo Lewis ballooned two shots high and wide of the post while substitute Alex Osborn could only fire straight at Walker from a decent position and Fleet were left to ponder another game slipping away in a fast-diminishing fixtures calendar.

TEAM: Edwards, Fish, Jefford, T Lewis, Langmead, Bonner, Godden (Gower 80), S Lewis, Kedwell (Rance 46), Cunnington, Shields (Osborn 76). Subs not used: Pooley, Acheampong
Att: 1,636


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