Fleet fans witnessed their 13th goal in three home games this afternoon as their side ran riot in the second half to blast their way into the Third Qualifying Round of the Emirates FA Cup. After a first half in the ascendancy but one in which AFC Sudbury frustrated their hosts, Fleet pushed on in the second half and while the five goals may have been harsh on the visitors, they lit up Stonebridge Road.
Daryl McMahon made two enforced changes with Darren McQueen and Reiss Greenidge in for Aaron McLean and Mark Phillips, while Jonathan Miles got the nod ahead of Nathan Ashmore. It was once again an attacking lineup and the Fleet went at the visitors early on to see if they could unsettle their Ryman League opponents. A break down the right saw a cross delivered on to the head of Dean Rance and he nodded it just over the bar.
Sam Deering looked busy as ever and he managed one familiar rampage into the box that was halted by Adam Tann. Fleet saw plenty of build-up from midfield that kept Sudbury pinned into their own half but just couldn’t string a killer pass together in the final third though it wasn’t for the want of trying. Danny Kedwell, who tended to run wide throughout the game, played an excellent pass into the six-yard box on eight minutes but it ran just ahead of McQueen. The young striker’s pace was troubling James Baker at the back for Sudbury and his fuel-injected acceleration set Deering free and when upended on the edge of the box, the stage was set for another Jack Powell set-piece but the free-kick was hit into the wall.
McQueen had another run and shot thwarted by Marcus Garnham who then stood rooted to the spot when another Rance header flew clear of the crossbar. But the game petered out midway through the half, not helped by a whistle-happy referee whose stop-start approach didn’t help the flow of the game.
As Fleet’s chances dried up, Sudbury started to come into things a little more and Aaron Greene sent a curling shot just wide of Miles’ post. The home side picked up the energy levels again shortly afterwards and Kedwell’s shot across goal was diverted by Garnham before the same player nodded a corner just over. Sean Shields forced his way into the game just before half-time with a shot that made Garnham work again and Fleet’s best chance was three minutes before the break when the goalkeeper once more did very well to steer Deering’s snapshot away from the goal. It bounced invitingly for Kenny Clark but he just couldn’t get a clean foot on it.
But Sudbury could very well have gone into half-time a goal to the good. First, Ryan Auger’s free-kick was well saved by a diving Miles and then in time added on, a Baker header from a corner was going in but for Shields’ intervention on the goalline.
Rance was replaced by Stuart Lewis at half-time but Sudbury held their ground for a good 10 minutes or so of the second half and murmurs of midweek replays were doing the rounds amongst the crowd. Shields made a dash from the halfway line that showed promise but as he raced into the box, his shot didn’t carry much power and was blocked. At the other end, Robert Eagle’s ball into Liam Wales was cut out by Clark but the clearance sliced off at an angle and ran behind for a corner.
McQueen could have put the Fleet ahead on 53 minutes when he gathered the ball outside the box, sped through on goal but seemed unable to decide on whether to shoot or go round the goalkeeper and Garnham got a hand on the ball.
But the Fleet’s No.10 made no mistake a minute later. From the left, Shields sent a deep cross to the far post and though it looked like it was heading out of play, Kedwell’s lunge scooped it back across goal and McQueen pounced to keep it on target and see it home for the crucial breakthrough. That gave the Fleet new impetus and they harried the Sudbury goal from that point on, Deering’s effort drawing another save from Garnham.
Ten minutes after his first, McQueen added Fleet’s second with a finish worthy of a much more experienced player. Capitalising on some hesitance from Ryan Henshaw, McQueen darted between him and the goalkeeper and hooked an angled shot goalwards to make it 2-0.
There was no way back for the visitors now and the Fleet started to play with an air of real confidence, though somewhat ironically, Miles found himself a little busier, gathering three efforts into his box with aplomb. A cheeky lob by Anthony Cook landed just inches from the far post and the same player provoked a goalmouth scramble that saw Lewis’s shot come back off a leg before the visitors cleared their lines. Then Shields found his way through via a mazy run but with McQueen waiting for the pass that might seal his hat-trick, Shields fired it at Garnham.
It was 3-0 on 80 minutes when Kedwell forced his way through from the right and with plenty of bodies in the box, his ball in was met by the incoming Powell who found a gap and slotted home.
Fleet fans would have settled for that but they were treated to a Stuart Lewis goalscoring masterclass before the game was up. On 86 minutes, substitute Kissock sprayed a pass wide to Shields, he advanced and supplied Kedwell, whose effort was diverted into the path of Lewis and the midfielder poked it home. And little more than a minute later, a ball into the box saw Bradley Bubb and Lewis almost trip over themselves to be first to it, Lewis winning that race to strike the ball into an empty net for 5-0.
Bubb almost delivered a sixth on the stroke of full-time when his speedy cross zipped along the six-yard box and Kedwell flung out a leg but saw Garnham tip it away from him on the line.
So it’s Fleet who advance into Monday’s draw and a valiant effort from AFC Sudbury who might feel they weren’t five goals worse than their more clinical opponents on the day.
EUFC: Miles, Cook, Shields, Greenidge, McCoy, Clark, Rance (Lewis 46), Deering (Kissock 66), Kedwell, McQueen (Bubb 79), Powell. Subs not used: Ashmore, Sheringham, Boulding, Connors
AFCS: Garnham, Furlonge (Newman 65), Wilkinson, Tann, Henshaw, Baker, Auger (Callander 65), Clarke, Wales, Eagle, Greene. Subs not used: French, Mallardo, Reynolds, Robinson