The 63-year wait goes on for a North Kent derby in the Kent Senior Cup Final as it was Charlton Athletic who booked their berth against Dartford as they overcame a youthful Fleet side by 2-1.
It was always going to be an uphill struggle for the Fleet who fielded only three senior players in Jonathan Miles, captain Dean Pooley and Joe Howe. With Charlton having played an U21 league game last night, they fielded an unexpectedly strong side with €2.5m Sporting Lisbon signing Naby Darr in defence as well as former Barcelona youth Cristian Ceballos, first-team squad players Dimitar Mitov, Karlan Ahearne-Grant, Harry Lennon and Tareiq Holmes-Dennis and former France U20 international El-Hadji Ba.
Four Academy players were handed their first-team debuts, including Billy Holmes who signed from Derby last month. And it was a real baptism of fire as Charlton almost scored from the first whistle. Holmes-Dennis rampaged down the flank, outpacing the home defence, and his cross fell to Ceballos who looked to have scored but Miles got down low to push the ball aside for a corner.
The Fleet goalkeeper was in the thick of things early on and made further decent stops from Zak Ansah and Ahearne-Grant in quick succession as the young Addicks threatened to run riot with their slick movement and strength. On the odd occasion that Fleet did build an attack, they were met by the huge figure of Sarr who, with Lennon alongside him, proved immovable despite tireless running from Jeff Nguede and Casey Johnson to his left.
Fleet’s defence was holding firm, however, despite the movement of Ansah and Ahearne-Grant in and around the box, while Miles continued to keep the visitors at bay, racing out to hack clear an effort from Ba while holding another shot from 10 yards.
But Charlton dealt the Fleet two killer blows inside three minutes. On 35 minutes the ball sat up for Ceballos as he collected it 25 yards from goal, took a glance and sent a quite glorious effort looping over the stranded Miles that flew in off the underside of the bar. Moments later the home defence was unlocked by Ahearne-Grant and as Miles went to challenge Ansah in the six-yard box, the striker slipped it wide to George Lapslie who converted the chance with ease.
Charlton continued to dominate possession in the second half, but Fleet enjoyed more of the ball and Miller-Neave in particular was industrious and creative from set pieces, whipping across a number of decent corners. He almost set Nguede up, intercepting Josh Staunton’s pass for the Fleet No.9 to fire a shot at Mitov that the Addicks goalkeeper gathered at the second attempt as it skidded off the surface.
Miles continued to man his goal with aplomb, sending a Holmes-Dennis drive out for a corner, while Ahearne-Grant smashed a shot off the crossbar. Fleet finished the game strongly, however, and Howe’s looping header from a high cross almost caught out Mitov.
Playing in an unfamiliar central midfield role, Howe wasn’t denied for much longer. In the dying moments of the game, Miller-Neave’s corner was punched clear by Mitov and Howe was first to it, firing it into the roof of the net via a Charlton leg. Fleet were then awarded a free-kick that was floated high into the danger zone and it had one or two fans filtering back in for an unlikely extra-time but the visitors cleared and the whistle sounded.
EUFC: Miles, Boulding, Miller-Neave, Pooley, Denny, Atkinson, Holmes, Howe, Nguede, Atomnyogo (Dabove 58), Johnson. Subs not used: Della Valle, Nouse, Tagg, Stewart.
CAFC: Mitov, Staunton, Holmes-Dennis, Lennon (Konsa 66), Sarr, Lapslie (Millar 76), Kelly, Ba, Ceballos, Ansah, Ahearne-Grant. Subs not used: Beeney, Kennedy, Moore