Fleet Dorking Wanderers 3-2aet – Ebbsfleet United Football Club

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A goal in extra time decided this promotion final in favor of Dorking Wanderers in an intense final that neither team deserved to lose. But it’s what happened moments before extra time that will long be remembered by Fleet fans with their team seconds away from the National League.

With the scores at 1-1 as six minutes of added time were indicated, Fleet thought they had won when Tanner fired wide in added time. But as the clock ticked well after extra time, former Fleet midfielder Luke Moore appeared at the far post to equalize at home and then Dorking added their winner in extra time.

Referee Jason Richardson, particularly named in the final despite officiating the original match in which he kicked out Sefa Kahraman, was the man whose timing was questioned by disappointed Fleet fans, but that’s Dorking who progressed through the National League.

Fleet made two changes to the starting lineup as Joe Martin and Alfie Egan took places ahead of Dominic Poleon and Shaq Coulthirst. Martin took up a position to the left of the usual back three, with Ben Chapman filling the balancing role on the right side.

Dorking started with former Fleet midfielder Luke Moore enjoying new life in the side, while Bobby-Joe Taylor had to settle for a place on the bench.

A quick opener saw Dorking with the first half chance when a cross from the right required a rushing clearance out of the box for the green shirts.

Fleet’s luck at five minutes was even better when Jack Paxman slipped a pass into the box for Rakish Bingham, but the Fleet striker failed to quite connect the shot under pressure from Jordan Cheadle. Chris Solly then kicked in a corner through the goal which was not far from sneaking at the far post.

Fleet continued to carve out the best of chances with Dennis Kutrieb’s game plan paying off and Ben Chapman’s free kick was decent height for a powerful Sido Jombati header that went over the target as Dan Lincoln threw in through the goal.

Dorking as expected broke and attacked quickly when he had the chance and Jombati had to sweep one away as a cross advanced towards Jason Prior before the visitors came back to attack at the 17th minute, Egan, Bingham and Chapman breaking the right but Paxman could not knock down the pass. Egan followed up with a shot on goal but it still headed off target.

And the breakthrough came in 22 minutes, rightly following the path of the fleet. Paxman collected the ball out of defense and into midfield where a superb move from Bingham opened up the opportunity for a pass. Paxman duly obliged with a finely measured ball into Bingham’s path behind the last defender and the No.9 kept his composure to pass Lincoln to make it 1-0.

Dorking almost answered six minutes later when Jimmy Muitt received an excellent through ball from James McShane and first crossed to Prior who for once got the better of Jombati in the air but headed towards him.

You couldn’t take your eyes off the game for a second as Fleet was back on the attack, Egan’s patient run-accelerated builder that fed Joe Martin for a shot on target that Lincoln had to pull out of the air.

And yet the action continued as Dorking got a rather lucky run from the ball from the right which stayed in play as it headed towards the contour line and was brought back to Alfie Rutherford who caught the fleet defense off guard but counted without an excellent block from Louie Molden to retain the lead.

But just when Fleet looked set to see things through until half-time, Dorking equalized in the 42nd minute. He came with a move down the middle and an awkward rebound went undealt with, a flick falling at McShane’s feet and allowing him to place it past Moulden.

Bingham celebrates its first game

Fleet had to absorb some pressure from Dorking early in the second half before Paxman beat Luke Moore on a ball that sent him scampering down the right. He pulled it off for Bingham who was just short of delivery in the penalty area.

Both teams exchanged good headers from free-kicks, punctuated in the meantime by a push after a foul on Romain and Moore’s long and steady protests to the referee.

Unlike the first half, the second was a more stately affair at times in the hot sun. Paxman’s through ball into Chapman in the box in the 70th minute needed a bit more power to confuse Lincoln, but neither goalkeeper was overstretched.

Fleet’s hearts were in their mouths in the 79th minute when a ball crossing the penalty area to the far post reached Prior in space to pound the roof of the net, but it was disallowed for a breach in the accumulation.

And another ball in a similar position two minutes later deflected towards the far corner of Moulden’s goal, but a combination of him and Finney somehow got a limb on the line to push him to safety.

With six minutes added time, there were some timely interventions from Jombati and Finney at the back as Dorking pressed. Nothing was more timely than when Jombati’s header clearance fell on Lee Martin and the ball made its way towards Poleon in space. He harassed the field in his usual fashion attacking the last defender and goalkeeper. He couldn’t quite press it, but the ball came back to replace Tanner who drilled it low to send the end of the fleet into absolute ecstasy.

With the six minutes of time exhausted and well beyond eight minutes – even allowing for extra time for the stupidity of the flares being thrown onto the pitch – referee Richardson allowed Dorking to put together a final attack that headed towards the far post, was hit, and it was Moore who attacked him first, regrouping him on the line through a crowd to break the fleet’s heart and send the game into overtime.

And it was Dorking who scored the next goal in the eighth minute of extra time. After probing around the fleet area with a few attacks, a weak delivery crept towards Rutherford who had enough space to fire past Moulden and put the home side ahead for the first time in the game.

Chances were scarce after that, with Egan ending a neat 104th-minute move from close range, the best of Fleet’s efforts to respond, but this one was cleared. Christian N’Guessan took an arm to the face the ref was oblivious to before Chapman followed that up with a low delivery forcing Lincoln away from Coulthirst.

Fleet was on the front foot in the second period, but Dorking had men behind the ball and tightened the offensive green shirts. N’Guessan’s looping header went just over the bar and Chapman shot in the same direction, but despite their best efforts the visitors simply couldn’t get the clean chance they needed.

CFEU: Moulden, J.Martin (Tanner 78), Solly, Finney, Jombati, Chapman, N’Guessan, Egan, Paxman, Romain (L.Martin 60, Coulthirst 98), Bingham (Poleon 87). Subs: Coulthirst, Haigh.
DWFC: Lincoln, Fuller, Gallagher, Cheadle (Wills 90+), Muitt (B.Taylor 73), Wheeler (Harris 88), Moore, J.Taylor, McShane, Rutherford, Prior (Oldaker 88). Replacements: El-Abd

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