Stonebridge Road has played host to some classic encounters in the 21st century but perhaps none as goal-laden and dramatic as the last time the Fleet defeated this Saturday’s visitors Kidderminster Harriers.
It’s been 10 games without a win against the Harriers for the Fleet – six consecutive draws between 2009 and 2012 bookended by a pair of defeats.
But in our FA Trophy-winning campaign of 2007/08, a blockbuster showdown in the September of that season produced nine goals between the Fleet and the Harriers. Four games without a win, the Fleet were in mid-table as Liam Daish’s full-time experiment gathered steam, but already the financial wolves were at the door with the club in then-secret discussions with MyFC about a takeover.
Kidderminster arrived with hotshot striker James Constable in their ranks as well as their present-day manager Russell Penn in midfield and Republic of Ireland international and former Blackburn and Birmingham defender Jeff Kenna.
There was plenty of action in the opening five minutes – after a half-hour delay for Kidderminster’s late arrival – with Chukki Eribenne opening the scoring for the Fleet before Danny Slatter succumbed to a serious knee injury that would see him out of the game for a full year. Substitute Mark DeBolla and Eribenne again put the Fleet in firm control with a 3-0 lead at half-time and few in the 812 crowd at Stonebridge Road gave Harriers much hope of clawing their way back.
The first-half was a bright enough affair but from the hour mark, the punters really got their worth. Fleet’s Warren Goodhind sliced one against his own bar (the referee said it crossed the line) but any lifeline for the visitors seemed to be stamped out two minutes later when DeBolla got on the scoresheet again to make it 4-1 with one of his trademark, exquisite 20-yard drives.
And the goals kept coming. Constable pulled two more back in quick succession for Harriers with the Fleet, previously purring towards victory, facing a narrow 4-3 lead going into the final 18 minutes and coming under immense pressure.
A talented Fleet youth setup was in the process of adding John Akinde to the first-team ranks to follow Luke Moore but it was another young prospect, striker Luke Coleman, who made a name for himself as he came off the bench on 78 minutes for his league debut. With Harriers constantly attacking a nervy Fleet back line, cool-headed Coleman raced on to a pass and swept an effort from the edge of the box into the back of the net with all the skill of a much more experienced player.
That seemed to be that at 5-3 but still the topsy-turvy affair continued with Constable sealing his hat-trick with a sublime volley as the game went into time added on.
“I’d have kicked my own granny for a win today,” a relieved Fleet boss Liam Daish told reporters post-match. Anybody that age probably wasn’t even left alive at the final whistle anyway!
EUFC: Cronin, Goodhind (Liam Coleman 71), McCarthy, Hawkins, McPhee, Bostwick, Long, Slatter (DeBolla 6), Opinel, Eribenne (Luke Coleman 78), Nade. Subs Not Used: Mott, Purcell.
KHFC: Coleman, Bignot (Barnes-Homer 84), Kenna, Creighton, Harkness (Hurren 34), Penn, Bennett, Ferrell (McGrath 66), Blackwood, Constable, Richards. Subs Not Used: Smikle, Munday.