LEWES 0-0 EBBSFLEET UNITED
Report by Ed Miller
After the euphoria of Saturday’s demolition of Stevenage, Fleet players and fans were brought down to earth with a bump in the unfamiliar surroundings of the Dripping Pan this afternoon. A windy day, which seemed unsure whether to rain on the Fleet parade or break into sunshine, in the event did neither – and there was certainly precious little sunshine on the pitch.
John Akinde started up front alongside Michael Gash due to Ricky Shakes’ injured foot, meaning Luke Moore slotted into the midfield, and Gash it was who almost carved out an opening in the first minutes, bounding into the area and past two defenders before being bundled out of possession inside the box.
But that initial cheering moment for Fleet fans was about as good as it got. The game, not helped by the conditions, soon degenerated into a midfield battle characterised by niggling fouls and hopeful long balls from both sides. Gash saw a 14th-minute header tipped over the bar, while Lewes went one better on 27 minutes when the imposing Chamal Fenelon rose above the defence and between himself and Matt Geard looped the ball over Lance Cronin and off the crossbar.
The Rooks’ Michael Standing also sent a couple of long-range free-kicks on target, though they were perhaps more noteworthy for the even longer-range run-up he took.
That really was it as far as the first half was concerned, with the assistant referees busy flagging for offside, the referee busy blowing his whistle for nudges and pushes and the players busy packing the midfield and ensuring that nothing of any excitement could occur.
Any thoughts that the second half could not possibly get any worse were soon dispelled and Liam Daish took only 11 minutes to decide he’d seen enough, replacing Gash and Barrett with Kezie Ibe and Jamie Hand. However, it would have taken a typhoon to have blown away the Fleet’s cobwebs and although the visitors enjoyed a 10-minute spell in the ascendancy when Moore, Ibe and McCarthy had efforts on goal, Lewes goalkeeper Ricky Banks was rarely called upon. There was also a shout for a penalty when Moore went tumbling going for a dangerous cross, and Long received a caution for his protests.
Lewes looked to have settled for their point with about 20 minutes left, though Fenelon had a long-range shot smothered by Cronin – playing his 100th game for the Fleet today – and Jamie Taylor looked as if he might open the scoring after a static Fleet defence let him run through, but the striker lost his footing and rather comically tumbled over on to his back. Standing also got the better of the Fleet defence but didn’t know what to do with it once he got clear and Charles saved the day.
Daish made one last throw of the dice, replacing Akinde with George Purcell and putting Luke Moore up front, and it almost paid off on 87 minutes when the winger left two defenders for dead and crossed low into the box but nobody in a white shirt could connect. Lewes substitute Stefan Cox, who caused much mirth among the Fleet following when his legs appeared to be covered in their entirety by his shorts, had a decent burst of pace and given more time could have troubled the back four.
The fact that central defenders were man of the match for their respective sides was no surprise and but for Darius Charles, the Fleet may have found it tougher going at the back. His opposite number, ex-Gill Danny Cullip, may well be going home with a lot of white fabric beneath his fingernails such was the shirt-pulling that went on, but he held the Rooks’ defence firm and kept Fleet’s much-vaunted strike force extremely quiet.
Given the other results in the division today, this really was a case of two points lost and took some sheen off Saturday’s scoreline, but the Fleet didn’t deserve any more today and the result, dull as it most certainly was, was the right one.
TEAM: Cronin, Ricketts, Opinel, Charles, McCarthy, Barrett (Hand 57), Long, Stone, Moore, Akinde (Purcell 86), Gash (Ibe 57). Subs not used: Mott, Hawkins.