Fleet 3-1 Hemel Hempstead Town

Fleet continued where they’d left off against Tonbridge Angels with a three-point haul at home and two wins from two in another entertaining performance this afternoon.

There were four changes to the side that began two weeks ago, with injuries forcing Dennis Kutrieb’s hand as Ben Chapman, Christian N’Guessan and Lee Martin came in for Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, Sido Jombati and Rakish Bingham, while Adam Mekki was in for Alfie Egan.

Former Fleet winger James Dobson began on the bench for the visitors who were able to include former Republic of Ireland and Birmingham City midfielder Stephen Gleeson for his full debut.

Hemel started very well indeed, and a run from the left by Ky Marsh-Brown put the Fleet goal under serious threat inside the first minute but he pulled his shot too far shy of the far post.

Lee Martin’s advance into Hemel territory saw his low shot bounce back off the post as Fleet upped the tempo on seven minutes.

And two minutes after that, Greg Cundle’s clever run and evasion of Gus Scott-Morriss’ tackle took him past the defender and into the box where his cross was cleared away from waiting red shirts.

Play settled down for a period but Fleet’s passing game was strongly in evidence as they sought to find a gap. Lee Martin had a couple of bites trying to get Domonic Poleon into play and Craig Tanner took a swipe at the end of a neat move but that went high.

Tanner was involved again on 26 minutes, sweeping play wide as Adam Mekki came in on to the pass and hooked a shot that flew off target.

Hemel and the Fleet traded a couple of free-kicks on the half-hour, neither hitting the target from good shooting positions.

Then came Fleet’s best chance as Chapman looked to release a quick ball upfield. He found Poleon who was heavily marked but his strength got him clear to twist around to face goal but his final effort was blocked.

Poleon was again frustrated on 35 minutes when Lee Martin’s nifty lay-off provided him a sight of goal and the striker got his shot off but it bounced back off Nathan Cooper’s knee.

Hemel had their moments on the counterattack and Marsh-Brown was always dangerous cutting in from wide positions, with Chris Solly, Chapman and Joe Martin needing to be alert to those movements.

The home side always looked the more likely to score but just couldn’t get the clean break they needed, emphasised by a run six minutes before the break from Mekki. He managed to keep his feet to get a low cross skidding behind everyone in the box but a red shirt was unable to get behind it.

It did come, however, and it was that man Poleon with it four minutes from half-time. Lee Martin provided the incisive pass and full of confidence, Poleon advanced to outfox goalkeeper Lewis Patching with a quick change of feet and a shot into the space beyond him.

The hard-working Cundle wasn’t far off as the half closed out with an effort before Gleeson’s free-kick at the other end was headed into Josh Gould’s gloves by Nathan Cooper.

Fleet began the second half well, with a corner to the far post troubling Patching as Tanner’s floated effort hit the upright before Poleon got on to a Jack Paxman delivery over the top and went down under a challenge. Loud appeals for a penalty were waved away.

Fleet went further ahead on 55 minutes with simple but delightful skill from Tanner. With the home side pressing in from the right, Tanner could have shot but opted for a back heel in the reverse direction, creating space for Mekki to pick his spot and pick it he did with a precise effort around Patching’s dive.

Fleet felt the freedom to begin spraying a few passes around midfield as Hemel chased them down. Chances continued to fall, however, and on 64 minutes Tanner and Poleon played a precise one-two from Mekki’s delivery that Tanner ended up sending just wide of the far post.

But Hemel were back in the game on 68 minutes from a corner that fell to Cole Kpekawa to turn home and he drove it into the roof of the net.

Fleet should have settled any nerves and taken two chances to immediately extend their lead after that as Tanner sprung the high Hemel line to get inside the box but his shot was saved by Patching who pounced on it as substitute Elliott Romain closed in.

Moments later Mekki raced down the right and his effort flew across goal with Lee Martin arriving clamouring for a pass.

Egan had a run and cross cut out as he tried to square for Romain from another long delivery. The midfielder then sent a powerful drive over the bar from the resulting corner.

But any worries that Fleet’s positive play might be under threat from that Hemel goal were diminished with 14 minutes left as a Cundle delivery from the left was finished off close-in by the skipper Lee Martin to the delight of the home faithful.

A late back heel by Martin put Fleet in sight of a fourth but Patching saved that one before a lengthy injury to N’Guessan, whose subtle but vital midfield role had been played ever so well, added seven minutes to the 90. By then, however, Fleet looked home and dry.

EUFC: Gould, Solly, Chapman, J.Martin, N’Guessan (West 85), Paxman (Egan 67), Mekki, Cundle, Tanner, L.Martin, Poleon (Romain 67). Subs not used: Haigh, Kahraman
HHTFC: Patching, Scott-Morriss, Williams, Kaloczi (Dobson 46), Cooper, Kpekawa, Carruthers (Cerulli 62), Gleeson, Ajayi (Ochieng 46), Lacey, Marsh-Brown. Subs not used: Hayes, Castiglione
Attendance: 885

Report by Ed Miller and Katie Humphris

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