So Close Yet So Far in Southern Combination Cup Final

Fleet suffered the worst start to this Cup Final when the officials awarded a Penalty to step 4 side Ashford Town (Mx) after 5 minutes, this spot kick was converted by David Pitt to give Ashford a 6th minute lead. Fleet were forced into an early change when James Dinsdale picked up a knock in contact and was replaced by Luke Larner after only 14 minutes. David Pitt came close to doubling the visitors lead when he ran from half way to close to the box before shooting, his effort cannoned off the crossbar and stayed in play for Roux Hardcastle to clear. Shortly after Thomas Brunton was able to disposes a Fleet player to take the ball forward and fire in Ashford’s second goal after 21 minutes. Ashford also had to make an early change with David Pitt going off, from the resultant free kick Dale Burnham scored goal number 3 for Ashford after only 25 minutes, bringing back thoughts to some of Fleet’s last visit to Ashford when we were both in the Southern League and Ashford scored five in each half. Slowly Fleet were getting more possession and creating openings, with half time approaching Fleet had a throw in down near the corner on the stand side, launched deep into the box, it reached the head of the in-rushing Tom Wensley but his effort flew wide, into the five minutes of added time shown at the end of the half another long throw, this time from the far side forced keeper Honey to quickly push the ball away from danger. Fleet came close from a corner kick and it needed quick feet from an Ashford defender to clear the ball off the line.

Fleet started the second half stronger and had several early chances, a shot over, another scramble and the ball cleared off the line again and the best chance fell to Dan Bone after a corner, when he managed to shoot over from inside the six yard box. Another Fleet attack saw fine inter play between Billy Oram and Dan Bone, when Dan shot the Ashford keeper went down and took the sting out of the shot but did not stop the ball but a defender got back to get the ball away for a corner. As the second half went on, Ashford looked as if they would settle for the lead they had, playing more square balls and  less threat on the Fleet goal. Fleet kept trying to give the large crowd packed behind the goal something to cheer about and finally the pressure paid off when Dan Bone collected the ball after a corner and fired it into the net to send the crowd wild, after 86 minutes. There was still time for more drama, inside the four minutes of added time, Billy Oram saw the space for one of his wonder shots, it hit the outside of the far post and bounced back into play, Fleet reached the ball first and when they played the ball back towards the goal it found an Ashford hand and the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot, with 94 minutes gone, Dan Bone stepped up and calmly stroked the ball into the corner past Shay Honey to bring Fleet only one goal behind. There was only time for Ashford to touch the ball at the kick off before the final whistle was blown.

Final score Fleet Town 2 Ashford Town (Middlesex) 3.

Large numbers of fans of both sides stayed in the ground to celebrate the presentation of the loser and winner medals and the cup.

Fleet Town : 1 Roux Hardcastle, 2 Ellis McLean, 3 James Dinsdale, 4 Dan Bone, 5 Khalid Babikir, 6 Tom Wensley, 7 Rowan Sharratt, 8 Ryan Esprit, 9 Mack Vary, 10 Billy Oram, 11 Shemar Pettet.

Subs : 12 Alfie Neville, 14 Matty Pearce (on for Vary 56 mins), 15 Ben Maunders, 16 Elliot Amadieu (on for McLean 73 mins), 17 Luke Larner (on for Dinsdale 14 mins)

Although most teams have already long finished their seasons, Fleet Town still have another match to play next Tuesday 17th in the Final of the Aldershot Senior Cup against Hartley Wintney, at Aldershot Town’s ground.