It would be something of a misnomer to describe tonight’s starting line-up as Fleet’s ‘fringe’ players, but certainly those not in contention recently for a league start will have done their chances no harm. Stacy Long and Tom Phipp in particular set the home side on their way with two fine strikes that rocked Tonbridge before the visitors had a chance to settle.
The contrast between this and the last Kent Senior Cup tie at a forlorn Stonebridge Road back in April – when the Fleet were on their knees on and off the pitch – couldn’t have been more different… even if the opposition was the same.
Elsewhere in the Fleet line-up, there were full debuts for Brandon Hall, Chris Sessegnon and Osei Sankofa, while Nathaniel Pinney was a familiar figure for the Angels. The visitors’ early attempts to get forward were nullified after only four minutes when Long took the ball in his stride 25 yards out and smashed a shot past Scott Chalmers-Stevens to put the home side 1-0 up.
A lively start by the Fleet was improved upon just eight minutes later with equally sublime finishing, Phipp curling a fine long-range effort beyond the luckless Chalmers-Stevens. Angels couldn’t find a toehold in the game as the Fleet worked hard to close them down, giving the men in blue no quarter.
Billy Bricknell, looking to get in on the spectacular scoring act, fired an effort wide from 20 yards on 16 minutes and Alex Osborn buzzed about the box in search of scraps as the Fleet, driven by Long, attacked with plenty of free-flowing football. Tonbridge weren’t without their forays forward, Henry Muggeridge seeing his shot diverted behind by Joe Howe, but they didn’t unduly trouble Hall.
And Fleet were 3-0 up five minutes before half-time as Shane Huke rose to meet Dominic Green’s corner (pictured), after good work by Osborn to win the set piece.
Tonbridge boss Tommy Warrilow made a couple of changes for the second half and it seemed to be for the better as Fleet’s outright domination became less obvious. Muggeridge and Jon Heath headed over for the visitors from a succession of corners and Hall saved from Mark Lovell on the hour as Fleet’s possession was confined mainly to the middle of the park.
Green sent a shot bouncing wide on 65 minutes in Fleet’s best effort of the half but there was little to suggest a fourth might be on the cards. Long continued to work hard to carve further openings, firing wide on 73 and then almost sneaking substitute Daryl McMahon into a goalscoring position. Tonbridge’s efforts at the other end could equally have yielded a goal, their best chance falling to Luke Olley who headed a corner a few inches over the bar.
Fleet finished strongly, however, as McMahon and Fakinos gave some fresh impetus to the home side’s midfield but further goals proved elusive as some measure of revenge was exacted for the Angels’ victory here in last season’s semi-final.
TEAM: Hall, Sessegnon, Howe, Corcoran (McMahon 74), Huke, Sankofa, Long, Green (Fakinos 71), Phipp, Bricknell, Osborn (Rance 62). Subs not used: Edwards, Lorraine