Tom Phipp scores for the second game running as Fleet make the next round of the FA Cup… PLUS match photos
Without Dean Pooley and Gareth Williams, Liam Daish was forced into changes, introducing fit-again Derek Duncan at left back and moving Clint Easton inside to partner Paul Lorraine. Ricky Shakes was recalled to add pace to Calum Willock’s firepower.
Neither side began as if they wanted to take any chances and the Fleet settled for a measured, patient beginning as the home side got to grips with probing for weak spots they might exploit and for that they were led by 12-goal midfield hotshot Craig Parker who grew in influence throughout the first half.
Fleet had the first shot of note on 15 minutes when Tom Phipp drew a low save from goalkeeper Danny Gay and Ashley Carew saw his effort clear the crossbar two minutes later. But led by Parker, Needham found plenty of drive from midfield and Preston Edwards was forced to parry a shot from Darren Bethell that was then hacked clear as Nathan Stone raced in to follow up.
On 29 minutes, Shakes delivered a ball from wide that eluded Willock but Ram Marwa connected from fully 30 yards and the ball smashed off the woodwork. And five minutes from time Shakes was again involved, striking from 25 yards to force a good save from Gay.
In between those two chances, Needham could themselves have taken the lead when winger James Evans found space down the right and delivered a fine mid-height cross that needed only a touch from a red shirt but Edwards managed to clear. The home side’s Stone also found his way into the book after a nasty studs-high challenge felled Lorraine but despite calls for a red card from the sizeable Fleet following – which more than doubled Needham’s highest home attendance this season – the referee allowed Stone to continue.
The second half was slower as, with the stalemate on the field, the cup tempo and enthusiasm seemed to drain out of both players and fans. It took 11 minutes after the restart for the first action and it almost saw the Fleet into the lead when Willock showed superb technique to strike a volley that Gay kept out with one hand.
But it was only a brief respite for Needham as a minute later Fleet spread play wide and although Shakes slightly miscued his shot from a cross, the ball fell to Phipp and he drove home a tidy finish to get on the scoresheet in successive games. On 66 minutes Marwa went close and Willock almost followed up from a goalmouth scramble while at the other end Bethell outmanoeuvred Easton and fired low and wide from a good position.
The home side had another bite at the cherry when Nathan Stone fed Parker in the box and Lorraine had to perform a saving tackle. From the corner, ex-Northern Ireland international Kevin Horlock found Stone at the far post and he should really have troubled Edwards but put his shot the wrong side of the crossbar.
Needham tried to up the ante as the game entered its final period but they looked tired and the pace slowed considerably. They had one final chance when Marwa failed to clear from a cross and it needed a combination of Edwards and Stone to sort out the confusion in the Fleet box. The ever-dangerous Parker followed up but Edwards stood firm.
The Fleet almost snatched a second in time added on when good work by Sealey ended up on the toes of Willock and he was mere centimetres from finishing. A late corner saw Gay desert his goal for Needham but they couldn’t muster a goal and were unable to extend their longest-ever run in the FA Cup any further.
So it’s the Fleet into the fourth qualifying round on October 23, meaning the only scheduled home league game of the month – against Hampton – will have to make way for another 90 minutes of cup football. Can the Fleet finally get a cup draw at Stonebridge Road? Find out on Monday…
See match photos by Keith Chase [ HERE ].
TEAM: Edwards, Stone, Duncan, Carew, Easton, Lorraine, West (Sealey 70), Marwa, Willock, Shakes, Shakes. Subs not used: Hagan, Henry, Udoji, Sherlock.
Michael West and Craig Stone tied for man of the match honours at Bromley. Who stood out today?