Fleet 2 Dover Athletic 1

Late strikes have typified pre-season for the Fleet this season but Michael West’s late double stole victory from the jaws of defeat against Dover this afternoon.

Fleet started with a familiar side, only Alex Stavrinou of the trialists in the starting line-up. And they almost got off to the perfect start when Dover keeper Ross Kitteridge let a high ball slip from his grasp. Fleet piled on pressure from the off, with Liam Enver-Marum and Clint Easton sending free-kicks close, while Ricky Shakes and Calum Willock stretched the Whites’ defence.

But the midfield play was scrappy with challenges worthy of a cup tie on occasion and Dover started to find their feet midway through the half, Harry Baker and Donovan Simmonds doing most with the ball but though they broke clear on occasion they found Ian Simpemba uncompromising at the back. Fleet lost Marum to injury on 39 minutes after a dubious challenge, with West coming on and the Fleet substitute was immediately into the action, neatly playing Willock into space but the striker shot over.

Dover introduced George Purcell in the second half and it didn’t take long for Fleet’s next change, ex-Colchester midfielder Sam Corcoran replacing Ram Marwa. But Dover struck on 52 minutes, good combative spirit by Matt Johnson freeing the ball for Donovan Simmonds and his low shot bobbled over goalkeeper Joe Welch and over the line.

A frustrated Fleet set about their task and Liam Daish made a flurry of changes but it was scrappy stuff with tempers frayed at times and strong words going on between the two managers. Dover looked settled until Fleet picked things up again with a West effort from an angle, a Stavrinou shot that Kitteridge punched away and Willock’s header from a corner inches wide of the post. Now Dover were on the back foot and Shakes supplied several tempting crosses while Tom Phipp and Simpemba also tried their luck.

But just as it seemed the Fleet had exhausted their supply of chances, on 78 minutes they were back on level terms. Lanre Azeez whipped in a cross that Kitteridge misjudged and it rebounded off the crossbar out to West who bundled it home.

The hungry home side went looking for the winner and twice almost got it as shaky Dover defending almost gifted them a goal. And in the 90th minute the goal came, West taking advantage of more lacklustre play at the back to dart in and fire home.

TEAM: Welch, Stone, Howe, Stavrinou (Fakinos 68), Easton (Dixon-Baker 55), Simpemba, Marwa (Corcoran 51), Enver-Marum (West 39), Willock, Shakes (Azeez 68), Erskine (Phipp 60).
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