Fleet 2 Dartford 2

Nathan Elder?s last minute goal rescued the Fleet a point as they came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with rivals Dartford.

With Dartford two up after 48 minutes, thanks to goals from Jon Wallis and Harry Crawford, Elder scored twice to secure a draw that keeps The Fleet off the bottom of the table on goals scored.

It was the least the side deserved after unleashing a brilliant second-half performance that had the visitors on the back foot for large periods, going some way to make up for a poor first-half display.

Fleet manager Liam Daish made two changes to the side that crashed to Boxing Day defeat against The Darts, with Ashely Carew and James Folkes starting in place of Lanre Azeez and Liam Bellamy.

Dartford manager Tony Burman also made two changes from that match, as former Fleet striker Jacob Erskine dropped to the bench to be replaced by Danny Harris, whilst Lee Noble was left out of the squad completely, with Wallis replacing him.

In the Boxing Day game, it was the visitors that made the better start to the game, and this was the case again. However, unlike on Boxing Day, when The Fleet were unable to make the most of their good start, Dartford took advantage to score with one of their first chances of the match.

After Ryan Hayes had already had an early shot saved by Preston Edwards, Lee Burns was sent free down the wing and, completely unmarked, he was allowed to send in a low ball across the goal that found Wallis, who tidily finished from 18-yards out.

The goal noticeably knocked the stuffing out of The Fleet and Dartford began to dominate possession. The visitors were first to every ball and looking comfortable, but failed to create too many other chances.

The first real Fleet goal scoring opportunity came from a mistake by Dartford goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli, who miscued a kick straight to Liam Enver-Marum. Enver-Marum then played in Elder, but his shot was comfortably saved by the goalkeeper.

Aside from this, the only time The Fleet really threatened in the half was from corners, as both Enver-Marum and Elder had headers saved by Bettinelli.

Dartford then had a goal ruled out when an offside Ryan Hayes finished past Edwards, before Harris had a jinking run end in a curled shot that was comfortably saved by The Fleet keeper.

Folkes endured a hapless half, as he constantly found himself isolated on the wing and surrounded by Dartford players whenever he had possession, meaning it was no surprise to see him substituted for Lanre Azeez at half-time.

However, any hopes that this substitution would wake Fleet from their slumber were shattered when, in the 48th minute, a free-kick from Wallis was headed back across goal and Crawford was able to finish from close range to double the lead.

Many fans in Stonebridge Road would have been forgiven for thinking that the goal meant it was game over, but The Fleet suddenly had other ideas. They attacked straight from kick-off, and the ball found Enver-Marum on the wing, who crossed for Elder to finish powerfully from 10 yards.

The goal lifted home fans? spirits and, for the first time in the match, conviction seemed to enter The Fleet?s play. They started to dominate possession and, immediately after the goal, Stone had a long-range shot deflect wide.

Ten minutes later, The Fleet had a golden chance to equalise when Neil Barrett played in Enver-Marum, but Bettinelli did well to narrow down the angle before getting a hand to the striker?s shot and the whole ground watched with baited breath to see the ball roll agonisingly wide of the goal.

Bettinelli came to punch the resulting corner, but punched it straight onto Enver-Marum?s foot, yet the ball once again rolled wide of the goal.

As the half progressed, The Fleet still had their visitors on the back foot, yet were unable to grab an equaliser. On a number of occasions, the ball was played across goal yet no one was able to make a connection.

With time running out, it was beginning to look unlikely that The Fleet would get the equaliser they deserved. Bettinelli was nearly lobbed by a superb Paul Lorraine overhead kick, and the goalkeeper then also saved a Lorraine volley with his feet.

In stoppage, The Fleet were awarded a controversial free-kick when James Rogers fouled Joe Howe on the halfway line. However, a number of Dartford players spent time remonstrating with the referee over the decision. This, in turn, meant that the referee was forced to play for longer than he would have, and Dartford were made to regret this when a long-ball downfield was flicked on by substitute Adam Williams to find Elder inside the box, and the Blue Square Premier Player of the Month for November made no mistake when finishing past Bettinelli from 12-yards to secure The Fleet a point.

Next up for Ebbsfleet is Lincoln at home on Saturday 5th January.

TEAM: Edwards, Stone, Howe, Walsh (Blake 65), Lorraine, Folkes (Azeez 46), Barrett, Phipp (Williams 85), Carew, Enver-Marum, Elder. Subs not used: Menz, Bellamy.
Att: 2,242

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