Hemel Hempstead Town 1-1 Fleet

The Fleet maintained their unbeaten record but saw the lead go 20 minutes from the end as Hemel forced an equaliser in a goalmouth scramble that undid Jack Paxman’s opener.

Four changes were the order of the day for the Fleet, with Chris Solly, Darren McQueen, Paxman and Greg Cundle all back in the starting lineup.

Hemel made a solid start with a couple of incursions forward and two shots off target in the opening six minutes. Cundle was the first to see goal for the teal shirts, taking on McQueen’s delivery and swinging a shot high across the face of goal on 12 minutes.

Marshalled well in midfield by the experienced Godfrey Poku, Hemel continued to fancy their chances and Kory Roberts glanced a header just wide from a corner on 18 minutes. Dara Dada was lively through the middle but his shots were off target and Mark Cousins was able to watch those head away from his goal.

Fleet were back on the attack with Tanner’s run ghosting through the Hemel defence on 25 minutes and though he escaped their attentions, his attempt to dink a ball through to his frontmen bounced back off the foot of the post and into Craig King’s arms.

Paxman goes through for the Fleet goal

That was of no importance a minute later when Tanner raced through again, found Poleon in his way after the No.14 slipped. Eventually the ball found its way to Paxman in the box after a delightful one-two with Poleon. The ball got tangled under his feet a little as Dominic Morgan-Griffiths came across to make the tackle but the Fleet midfielder did enough to skip the challenge and force it past King at the second attempt, despite the goalkeeper stopping it just past the goalline.

Cousins claimed a Josh Castiglione free-kick with ease as Hemel attempted a response but Tanner went closer at the other two minutes before half-time, his dipping free-kick nestling on the roof of the net. It was Fleet’s quality going forward that proved the difference at the end of a quiet enough half of football, with Hemel more wasteful when they did gain sight of Cousins’ goal.

Haydn Hollis blocks the path to goal

Having finished the first-half with a free-kick on the roof of the net, Tanner began the second-half in similar range of goal, lining a shot up on 51 minutes that flew a little too high.

Paxman’s quick-running and exchange of passes out left almost played Bingham in to slip a shot towards goal but King dived down to claim that. And minutes later as the hour mark rolled around, a training-ground corner was dummied into Bingham’s path – he connected well but sent his drive wide.

Hemel immediately resumed the attack and Castilgione’s free-kick caused some anxiety, bouncing towards the six-yard box where Cousins had to keep a careful eye on it to claim. And Solly was hard into the tackle when Ogo Obi was given space to run at Cousins but the Fleet skipper proved too formidable an obstacle.

Poleon was penalised for a tussle with King as the goalkeeper failed to gather the ball from the Fleet top scorer when he was sent clear, while Paxman and Bingham got in each other’s way as a poor Hemel ball across the middle opened them up.

Cousins was called into action on 72 minutes to back-pedal and tip Obi’s ambitious shot over the bar for a corner. But with their next attack Hemel equalised, a deep cross causing a goalmouth scramble after Roberts’ header. Cousins got in the way of that with an impressive instinctive block but with the ball still loose, Roberts sent it back and Harris O’Connor poked it over the line.

The hosts, playing to their strengths for much of their improved second half, had their tails up for a spell as they looked to unsettle the Fleet defence after that somewhat unexpected goal. The Fleet forced a couple of corners in the closing five minutes but were unable to trouble King and a point apiece it was.

EUFC: Cousins, Jombati, Hollis, Solly, Chapman, Paxman (Coulthirst 74), Cundle (Domi 89), McQueen (Sterling-James 46), Tanner, Bingham, Poleon. Subs: O’Neill, Monlouis
HHTFC: King, O’Connor, Meade, Poku, Lelan, Roberts, Dada (Greenidge 68), Morgan-Griffiths, Obi (Holness 90), Castiglione, Ilunga. Subs: Eleftheriou, Holt, Brown
Attendance: 625

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