Fleet 2-2 Chippenham Town – Ebbsfleet United Football Club

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Four goals certainly entertained the crowd in the penultimate league game at the Kuflink Stadium as Fleet came from behind twice to earn a point against a resilient Chippenham whose own desire for a play-off spot of their own s is manifested.

Elliott Romain was on the scoresheet when he returned to the starting line-up and the unlikely figure of Chris Solly – with his second goal for the club – leveled the scores again.

It was two changes for the fleet, a straight swap from the bench to the starting lineup for Alex Finney and Romain, replacing Craig Tanner and Dominic Poleon. Shaq Coulthirst was the first with a sight of goal, however, crossing Christian N’Guessan’s first forward pass before being harassed by the Chippenham defence.

It was a rare play in the box for both teams in a slow-paced first half as Chippenham lined up men on the pitch to effectively close off any route to goal for the fleet. And the visitors almost forced an opener 12 minutes later when Jordan Young snuck in mid-break, turned away from the red shirts around him and fired a soft shot which nonetheless headed for the corner lower with Louie Moulden having to stretch fully to get his hands on it.

Tom Mehew netted twice for Chippenham, his speculative 17th-minute effort trying to catch Moulden out of position but not quite hitting the target, with Finney back to cover. He had another try from range six minutes later, but Molden found this one easy.

There was little the Guardian of the Fleet could do about the next opportunity just before the half hour mark. The visitors had begun to dig in and venture forward for a few minutes when Mo Dabre stepped in from the left to provide Joe Hanks at the edge of the box. He hit a soft effort in the bottom corner and the Bluebirds were ahead.

Fleet responded with Romain in the thick of the action. He claimed a penalty for a 32nd-minute push which the referee showed little interest in, then from a corner a ball bounced off a Chippenham body with Romain appealing for a handball in stride.

The No. 19 in the fleet then came in force from another corner, his header and follow-up twice cleared from the penalty area. And then from another corner the ball was kicked in again for Romain to send the ball a few inches wide.

Ben Chapman put a ball down Coulthirst’s path and he got behind the defense but collided with goalkeeper Will Henry who was coming out to clear but any further penalty cries were again dismissed by M Hughes.

Rakish Bingham delivered Chapman an accurate pass for another shot on goal which was blocked before Moulden had to reverse Hanks’ slight effort on the stroke of half-time.

Chris Solly slips in for the second equalizer

Unhappy with his side’s performance in the first half, Dennis Kutrieb introduced Tanner for Finney for the second half and within five minutes the fleet was back level. He came via a corner from Solly, launched himself in the middle of the box and Romain planted a header on target at close range.

Fleet went in search of another in the 54th minute, Bingham and Tanner combining perfectly on the edge of the box and the latter inviting Coulthirst to jump into the box to see his shot saved by Henry.

But before the home side could really come out on top, Chippenham again took the lead. He came on the hour mark via a somewhat dodgy corner after Moulden appeared to have kept the ball in play only for the assistant referee to call it off. And just like Romain’s goal for the fleet, the delivery down the middle was good and Will Richards rose the highest to head home.

Their tails once more raised, Chippenham almost went further on 70 minutes when Luke Russe did well to avoid Sido Jombati and his pass to Hanks was fired against the post and to safety.

The last 20 minutes were all fleet, though. Somehow the ball stayed out of goal in the 71st minute when Chapman’s low cross from the right was smashed on target by Romain, then Bingham and finally substitute Poleon, but every times was successfully blocked by a gray jersey.

But the home side scored the goal they deserved in the 77th minute. Tanner’s free kick to the far post was met by Solly who timed a run to slip in and convert Henry for the equaliser.

After that, Fleet did everything but score the winner. Substitute Lee Martin’s incisive strike eight minutes from time appeared to be in goal but hit the post before Chapman came back behind the defense to deliver to Poleon in the penalty area but the ball was stolen on his toes .

Chapman was the main threat in the final minutes and he did it again down the right, providing another great chance which Martin did well to shoot on target but the in-form Henry was up to it again.

Henry was the visitors’ undisputed star in these closing stages and he held on despite the onslaught of Fleet to provide Chippenham with another point in their play-off bid, while Fleet will battle for third place at Billericay on Monday.

CFEU: Moulden, J.Martin, Jombati, Finney (Tanner 46), Solly, N’Guessan, Chapman, Paxman, Romain (L.Martin 78), Coulthirst (Poleon 57), Bingham. Subs: Domi, Haigh
CTFC: Henry, Golding (Santos 67), Greenslade, Parselle, Richards, Dabre, Young, Bray, Hanks (Bradbury 79), Mehew, Russian. Replacements: Coppin, King, Lawal
Presence: 1,102

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