Fleet 4-2 Dulwich Hamlet

The Fleet chalked off game number one of their four-win target in a cracking afternoon’s entertainment that saw Dominic Poleon throw down a number of milestones in a four-goal spree.

Poleon made it past 50 goals for the club, he broke Matt Godden’s 21st century record for goals in a single season and he even emulated the four-goal blast that Godden managed towards the end of that 2015/16 season.

And Poleon wasn’t alone with the heroics as Mark Cousins’ crucial penalty save on top of a number of other important stops gave his side the foundation to go and win in a six-goal thriller.

Four changes for the Fleet included a start for Alex Finney while Dulwich were without injured former Fleet defender Will Wood and they saw Jack Holland drop out of the back line shortly before kick-off to be replaced by Quade Taylor.

And the game was only three minutes old when Poleon continued his own course to 30 league goals with the opener. It came when Greg Cundle took advantage of Sanchez Ming’s slip at right-back to deliver for Rakish Bingham. With his back to goal, he played in Poleon who had a more straightforward route to the target and he duly struck home.

A lively opening period saw Poleon and Shaq Coulthirst play a delightful one-two that released Cundle but Charlie Grainger got down to that one. And as six minutes ticked round, Dulwich were level, a good approach by George Porter paid off for Joe Felix who had too much time to rifle his effort from 15 yards past Cousins.

The pace was a quick one and another pacy break by the Fleet on nine minutes resulted in McQueen’s shot earning a corner. And that was all Fleet needed to regain the lead, the set-piece delivery from Josh Wright deep to the back post and Poleon, almost without thinking it seemed, simply hooked the ball into the roof of the net from his position on the line.

Felix had the ball in the net again on 18 minutes but the assistant referee had already flagged Porter offside as he slid in to challenge Cousins. Moments later, Dulwich had another great chance as Danny Mills’ aerial presence caused some problems, his header down to release Felix for a shot on goal very well parried by Cousins.

That aerial policy was clearly in evidence as several set-piece decisions went the way of the visitors over the next 10-15 minutes and the Fleet had to keep things tight at the back. Twice Josh Fawole went close, Finney cutting out his second attempt as Dulwich broke quickly from a Fleet free-kick on 31 minutes.

Taylor was fortunate to only get a talking-to after he risked accumulating a second yellow for a body-check on Cundle on 36 minutes. Luke O’Neill curled in a fine free-kick that Grainger pushed away for a corner that eventually yielded the third goal. Cundle worked hard to dig the ball free when it came to him in the box and as he lashed it back across goal amidst a sea of bodies who else was in space to strike the ball home for his hat-trick and his 30th league goal but Poleon.

Dulwich weren’t quite done as Mills got ahead of the red shirts to slip a header just wide shortly before the break and then Porter had two shots in quick succession from six yards out that Cousins did ever so well to get in the way of.

Mark Cousins at full-stretch for the penalty save

Easing into the second-half, the Fleet’s next best chance arrived on 56 minutes, Wright’s interception in the box allowing O’Neill and Poleon to tee up Coulthirst who was ever so unlucky to see his first-time effort spin off the post.

The second period threatened to be a more pedestrian affair than the first but Dulwich were back in it on 62 minutes to set up a grandstand last half-hour. Cousins made another excellent reaction save low on the ground from Porter after Mills had helped the ball on to him. But Porter was able to steal in over the prone Cousins and scoop it into the empty net.

Cousins’ next intervention was even more crucial three minutes later when Chris Solly was adjudged to have handled after a Felix shot struck him in the midriff. Frankie Raymond sent the penalty to the Fleet keeper’s left but his former Bromley teammate Cousins stood tall to push it away courtesy of a great stretch.

If Coulthirst was unlucky with his shot that hit the post, he was feeling that ill luck again when Fleet counterattacked on 69 minutes. Poleon found him running through and Coulthirst’s shot to the far corner seemed to be heading in but bounced off the inside of the post and was cleared.

Coulthirst’s luck was coming in threes as he received a yellow card while being substituted as he didn’t depart the field at the exact point to satisfy the referee, despite it not being an issue in the other 38 games this season!

Fleet weren’t feeling sore about those bits of misfortune for too long as the irrepressible Poleon made it four with his fourth of the afternoon. Substitute Omari Sterling-James chased a lost cause to beat his man at the byline and centred it for a queue of red shirts 10 yards out, Poleon hardly the surprise option to drive it home, leaving Grainger no chance.

Prior to that goal, Dulwich had been reduced to 10 men when former Fleet midfielder Kreshnic Krasniqi was red-carded following a lunge on the far side of the pitch and with the killer goal added, Hamlet’s opportunity had gone after a good second-half effort from the visitors.

That made the last 10 minutes more comfortable for the joyous home supporters who head to Slough for a live TV game as they count off the games in a climactic close to the season.

EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill, Finney, Solly, Wright (Clifford 83), N’Guessan, Cundle, McQueen (Sterling 72), Bingham, Coulthirst (Edser 73), Poleon. Subs: Chapman, Hollis
DHFC: Grainger, Ming, Cheadle, Taylor, Raymond (Powell 71), Mills, Porter, Fawole (Crichlow 60), Felix, Krasniqi, Campbell. Subs: Gavin, Jones, Vint
Attendance: 1,525

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