Fleet came from behind once more to extend their unbeaten league run to 30 games with a 1-1 draw at Crabble. Darren McQueen equalised in the 77th minute after Ryan Bird had headed the Whites in front after a quarter of an hour and Fleet couldn’t quite press home their pressure in the latter stages of the game.
With Sam Magri away and Andy Drury succumbing to a groin strain, Daryl McMahon had to let loose yet another new defensive formation and he brought Marvin McCoy into a back four while Myles Weston was also recalled.
On an incredibly hot Bank Holiday afternoon, neither side went hell for leather early on but Dover looked to press Fleet into their own final third and Chris Bush and Yado Mambo were soon amongst the aerial challenges. The Whites forced a number of early set pieces but in open play it was Bagasan Graham who first tested the goalkeeper, with Mitch Walker making a routine save from the Fleet wide man’s run. But Dover took the lead on 15 minutes, with referee David Rock making the first of several odd decisions for both sides, awarding a throw-in the wrong way. Mitchell Pinnock, who had seconds before worried the Fleet defence with a useful free-kick, was then able to send a high cross into the box and Ryan Bird was left unchallenged as he climbed highest to direct a powerful header away from Nathan Ashmore and into the top corner.
Both goalkeepers weren’t particularly tested in a first-half short on chances and after Dover’s early aerial blitz and goal, Fleet enjoyed a little more play in the home half. Danny Kedwell headed Weston’s cross over and McQueen had a shot on target but it lacked power and Walker gathered easily. Kedwell sent another header off target from a Jack Powell corner and Powell fired a direct free-kick into the Dover wall but there was little else to occupy the crowd in that first 45.
Dover looked purposeful in the opening minutes of the second half and McCoy was well-placed to block a hefty shot from Pinnock on the edge of the box as the Whites looked to extend their lead. Fleet tried to get their game going and Chris Bush’s adventurous rally upfield on 53 minutes ended with a ball into McQueen’s feet and a turn and shot at Walker once more.
The influential Pinnock then saw a free-kick drift inches wide of Ashmore’s post before he slammed another shot just wide, while Bush had to be on hand to rob Tobi Sho-Silva inside the box. But having weathered that mini-storm, Fleet went in search of the equaliser and McMahon gave an early opportunity to Danny Mills as his side adopted a 4-3-3 formation, Luke Coulson being the one to make way.
Ashmore had to hastily back-pedal when Dover skipper Mitch Brundle let fly with a high ball from inside his own half, hoping to catch the Fleet keeper out, but the excited shouts from the Dover end were more in hope as Ashmore seemed to have it well covered.
The talking point of the game arrived on 64 minutes when McQueen darted into the box and looked to shoot before going down. Fleet fans howled for a penalty but referee Rock seemed more content to issue McQueen with an instant caution for simulation, which mystified most observers close to the incident.
But McQueen was to have the last laugh 13 minutes later as his side began to up their territorial dominance. From a goal kick, Kedwell climbed to flick the ball towards the box and McQueen managed to drift in front of Femi Ilesanmi whose mistake was costly as the Fleet striker picked his spot to arrow a shot past Walker. With Sean Shields on as well, Fleet were much much more lively and the substitute worked his way past three Dover defenders along the edge of the box before cutting a cross back to Powell, who headed just over the bar.
Dover saw two more men go into the referee’s book and Fleet had one more chance when Graham fed McQueen from the left but again Walker was able to reach for the shot to shut the Fleet out.
EUFC: Ashmore, McCoy, Graham Mambo, Bush, Coulson (Mills 58), Payne, Powell, Weston (Shields 72), Kedwell (Cook 78), McQueen. Subs not used: McLean, Miles
DAFC: Walker, Passley, Parry, Essam, Ilesanmi (Deen-Conteh 77), Gallifuoco, Brundle, Nortey, Pinnock (Daniel 82), Bird, Sho-Silva. Subs not used: Richards, Fazakerley, Essuman