Fleet fans enjoyed their side’s best performance of the season as a ruthless 6-0 demolition of Worthing cemented Dennis Kutrieb’s side’s position at the top of the table.
Smashing six without reply was the Fleet’s best away haul since the same scoreline at Weston-super-Mare in 2013 and while it might have been greedy of the travelling fans, they were demanding more given the additional chances their side created in addition to the six they put away.
Worthing, fresh from their own superb away demolition of Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday, came into this one high on confidence but were simply shellshocked by the time the first-half drew to a conclusion.
There were two changes for this first visit in four decades to Woodside Road as Greg Cundle and Craig Tanner made way for Ben Chapman and Franklin Domi, with Alex Finney returning on the bench. That drew some quizzical looks from Fleet fans but any questions about formation and selection were dispelled by what unfolded over the following 90 minutes.
After the somewhat frustrating win over Slough given their defensive posture at the Kuflink Stadium, this was an altogether more appealing affair with two sides keen to make use of the space to run into and attack.
Chapman carved out the first opportunity with a swift advance down the left and a pinpoint cross for Rakish Bingham who met it only six yards out but the ball came at him somewhat quickly and his shot was gathered by goalkeeper Harrison Male.
In a tempestuous opening period, Worthing’s high press down either flank kept Luke O’Neill and Joe Martin penned in each corner as the home side sought to pressure their visitors into a mistake. The two sides traded blows for a while, Mark Cousins called into action briefly but it was Fleet who gradually turned the screw.
Domi’s position behind the front two was nullifying Kane Wills in the middle and Worthing found themselves increasingly blunted by the Fleet’s formation, with the visitors mixing up their play.
The opening goal came on 19 minutes when the hard-working Omari Sterling-James caught Worthing napping with a fine tackle and he contributed to the build-up, supplying O’Neill on the right for a delivery into Dominic Poleon. The top scorer stabbed that home with unerring accuracy.
Worthing had a couple of Wills free-kicks floated across into the box inviting an attacking header or two; Cousins did ever so well to parry that and O’Neill mopped up and then he had Sterling to thank for brave defending at the far post to thwart Callum Kealy.
Domi almost finished off Sterling’s counterattack, rolling a shot just past the post, before Chapman had a good shout for a penalty. He ran through on to O’Neill’s long-range ball forward and appeared to be at the very least nudged in the back by Reece Meekums but play continued.
Far from feeling sorry for themselves, Fleet used the next 10 minutes to put themselves out of sight. Goal number two came on the break on 34 minutes. Cousins, under pressure from a red shirt, cleared to Joe Martin who hoisted a long ball for Bingham to outpace the Worthing defence. He needed only a touch to find Poleon in space in the box who slammed the ball home low past Male.
Two became three little over a minute later. Chapman was away down the left and although his delivery for Poleon was a little long, Domi was quick on to Joe Rye’s error and the defender rather needlessly stuck a leg out to bring the former QPR youngster down on the edge of the box. It was O’Neill who stepped up with the responsibility and he sent the keeper the wrong way, finding the opposite corner.
Clearly rattled, Worthing looked like they couldn’t wait to get into the dressing room and further damage was almost done when Poleon and Toby Edser combined to square a ball to Bingham who smashed it off the underside of the crossbar and away. Edser’s commanding, skilful run two minutes before the break deserved more and he found Poleon who had the hat-trick in his sights but his shot was wide of the post.
At the other end, Cousins performed an eye-catching diving save from Josh Chambers’ shot but the further damage that Worthing had avoided was done as the half came to its conclusion. Once more it came from the left flank. Bingham beat Wills to a header and delayed a pass wide to Chapman who gobbled it up and launched an outswinging shot into the far side netting for 4-0.
A double substitution at half-time for Worthing stemmed the Fleet tide at the outset of the second-half and though the red shirts enjoyed a little more possession, there was never a moment when the visitors didn’t have a man spare to put in a tackle or tidy up a loose ball. Christian N’Guessan embodied that tidiness in the Fleet midfield but in truth it was difficult to pick a single individual out such was Fleet’s application to the task in hand.
Edser sent a couple of efforts well wide before the fifth goal arrived 20 minutes into the second-half. Domi almost scored by accident when Male kicked a clearance straight at him but then he did get the goal his performance deserved. Bingham made it a hat-trick of assists, picking Domi out on the edge of the box and the No.16 was able to size up his spot to fire home for 5-0.
Darren McQueen was introduced for the final 20 minutes and he took half that time to add his side’s sixth goal of the night. Sterling back-heeled for Edser down the right, he snuck a pass centrally to McQueen who took a touch before switching feet and rasping the shot into the back of the net.
Fleet fans roared for the seventh goal that would have broken the club record for an away win but try as Poleon might three minutes from the end, it didn’t quite come.
Not that anyone minded that after the consummate display by the Fleet who were a joy to watch throughout and made every penny spent and every mile covered well worth it on a cold Tuesday night.
EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill (Finney 74), Martin, Hollis, N’Guessan, Edser, Domi (Tanner 82), Chapman (McQueen 70), Sterling-James, Bingham, Poleon. Subs: Jombati, Coulthirst
WFC: Male, Colbran, Wills, Racine, Chambers, Pearce (Splatt 46), Dabre, Rye, Beresford (McLeod 71), Kealy, Meekums (Akanbi 46). Subs: Cocoracchio, MacLeod, Shubbar
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