Fleet advanced into the last four of the Kent Reliance Senior Cup as Charlie Sheringham’s first-half strike was enough to send Phoenix Sports out in the clubs’ first-ever meeting.
A much-changed Fleet side saw Academy prospects Karn Miller-Neave, Ollie Boulding, Joe Denny and Casey Johnson in the line-up, with only Jordan Parkes included of recent first-team starters. Phoenix included former Fleet players Giannoulis Fakinos and Steve Springett.
Parkes was the chief architect from Fleet’s midfield in the early exchanges, creating plenty of room for himself to distribute the ball while Johnson’s movement was good. Indeed he had the game’s first chance on 11 minutes when Alex Osborn’s advance down the right created the opening but Johnson turned the resulting cross over the bar from close range.
Phoenix were far from outgunned, however, and got the ball down in an attempt to get forward. A cross from James Mascoll on 18 minutes found Springett at the back post and his header wasn’t far off target, under pressure from Dean Pooley. The lively Alistair Gordon, a product of Chelsea’s academy, also threatened on occasion.
There was little to excite the crowd at the mid-point of the first-half but West did his best shortly before the half-hour mark playing a delightful ball from the left-back position that found Osborn running through. He rounded goalkeeper Steve Phillips but the angle was tight and Osborn’s shot was cleared behind for a corner.
The best chance of the night, however, came Phoenix’s way on 31 minutes. Bright winger Harrison Carnegie received a pass to the corner edge of the box and despatched a curling shot beyond Jon Miles that crashed off the post, with Adrian Stone just not quick enough to convert the rebound.
Fleet lost Acheampong after that with the big defender taking a blow to the head and, with Tom Bonner’s impending suspension, it was thought best to make a substitution. Stacy Long slotted into Pooley’s position just in front of the back four who in turn moved to cover Acheampong’s absence.
And it was Pooley who made the only goal of the game on 40 minutes. Advancing into space in midfield, he played a deft pass to West whose quick feet delivered the ball to Sheringham and he shot beyond the goalkeeper and inside the far post to make it 1-0.
Parkes made way for Daryl McMahon at half-time and Fleet’s midfield enjoyed plenty of possession as they dominated the ball, Phoenix’s positive edge of the first-half somewhat nullified. On 47 minutes McMahon’s pass found Johnson who saw his effort well-saved by Phillips and Sheringham’s follow-up shot was blocked in the box by Richie Hamill.
There were few further chances though Boulding, more than willing to get forward from his right-back slot, weighted a perfect cross on 69 minutes that just evaded the head of the jumping West, while Johnson had a run on goal after an excellent through ball but his first touch let him down and Phillips saved.
Fleet looked home and dry as they enjoyed keep-ball for much of the second 45 minutes but Phoenix forced the issue in the final minutes and really should have grabbed an equaliser. Gordon flashed a cross along the six-yard box that the onrushing Carnegie was only inches from converting while McMahon was well-placed on the line to hack a corner clear in the dying moments.
It was enough, however, and Fleet take their place in the semi-finals alongside Greenwich Borough and two of Bromley, Charlton, Dartford and Herne Bay.
EUFC: Miles, Boulding, Miller-Neave, Pooley, Acheampong (Long 35), Denny, Osborn, Parkes (McMahon 46), Sheringham, West (Tagg 73), Johnson. Subs not used: Stewart, Hughes
PSFC: Phillips, Andrews, Hamill (Orome 82), Bedford, Springett, Hill, Carnegie, Gordon, Freeman (Stone 10), Fakinos (Goodchild 75), Mascoll. Subs not used: Mingle, Kemp