Danny Kedwell started and finished a week of huge statistics for the Fleet as they thumped Bishop’s Stortford 8-0 in front of a four-figure Stonebridge Road crowd. Kedwell passed his 100th game on Saturday and scored the goal tonight that clinched a club record victory for the Fleet. In between, there was also time for the team to pass 100 goals for the season in all competitions and see two players score a hat-trick each –another first in Fleet history.
The feelgood factor at the end of the game was summed up by a chase around the pitch for the matchball between Darren McQueen and Anthony Cook, with the latter also taking home the man of the match champagne.
Daryl McMahon handed a debut to Jake Howells in place of Jack Connors at left-back and McQueen was rewarded for his recent couple of goals from the bench with a place in the starting line-up ahead of Bradley Bubb.
And a slow opening to the game gave few hints of what was to follow as Fleet embarked on a pleasing passing game but only launched a few probing attacks at the Bishop’s Stortford defence. A couple of corners put the home side on the front foot but the first five minutes or so saw neither goalkeeper tested. That all changed on seven minutes when Anthony Cook, whose shoot on sight policy seems to be paying dividends, tried another impressive effort that was deflected behind for a corner. Jack Powell sent the set piece across and Cook was on hand to tuck the ball away at the near post to give Fleet the lead.
McQueen showed early flashes of what would follow as he used his pace to unsettle veteran centre back Darren Purse, forcing the former Cardiff man into a goalline clearance, but for a 10-minute spell the visitors enjoyed a little possession in midfield as Fleet left a big gap between defence and McQueen in isolation up front. In that period, Nathan Ashmore had to tip over an effort from Aaron Greene and Luke Callander whipped a header just wide from a corner.
Fleet cleared that minor hurdle and steered the game their way on 23 minutes when a long ball found McQueen on his own to the right of the goal. He shielded the ball, weaved along the perimeter of the box and unleashed a low shot into the bottom corner that goalkeeper Richard Walton might have done better to prevent skipping over the line.
Fleet played some exhibition stuff after that, with one 50-pass move in and around midfield ending with McQueen lifting a shot just over the bar. The young striker was again in the hunt four minutes later when more superb football from the home side saw McQueen thud a shot off the post that only just cleared Walton’s back as it bounced the wrong side of the post.
But the third goal seemed almost inevitable and it duly arrived four minutes before half-time. McQueen slipped a ball through to Cook as the Stortford defence tried to cover Powell’s movement into the box and the Fleet No.2 pulled yet another of those curling shots from his bag and bent an effort around Walton for 3-0. Sam Deering almost made it four when his shot skidded along the surface and just wide with McQueen waiting on the line to turn it in.
There was no way back for Stortford and the second half should just have been about them limiting the damage but it got worse for the visitors. Seven minutes after the restart, the irrepressible Deering who was a ball of energy and commitment all game, worked into space down the left and crossed into the middle where McQueen, with a quick change of feet to wrong-foot a defender, fired a shot beyond Walton to make it 4-0.
With two players on two goals each, the race for a hat-trick was on. And it was McQueen who won it just past the hour mark. Deering again was the man on the end of a superb build-up and he worked it to the feet of McQueen whose shot beat the goalkeeper and went in off the post for his third and Fleet’s fifth.
With half an hour left, the visitors really weren’t at the races and on 69 minutes, one hat-trick became two. Cook picked the ball up 30 yards out and had the score not been 5-0, he would surely have passed – but instead he sprinted into space and drove a powerful shot beyond the hapless Walton into the far corner.
With both hat-trick heroes substituted after that, it was time for a couple of other players to get involved. Stortford had a minor rally with three shots in as many minutes, the second of them finally making Ashmore work, but then Fleet were back on it. Seven minutes from the end, Kedwell charged down a ball out of defence and raced forwards. He could easily have gone for goal himself but unselfishly slipped it wide to substitute Bubb who duly despatched it for 7-0.
It had been almost 42 years since a Stonebridge Road crowd had seen their side score eight goals and they were willing the clock to stop ticking away so as to witness it. It duly arrived a minute from the end and was probably the simplest goal of them all – Powell’s corner was aimed into the box and Kedwell rose highest to power a header home that reset the record books.
EUFC: Ashmore, Cook (Shields 72), Howells, McCoy, Phillips, Clark, Powell, Drury (Rance 70), Kedwell, McQueen (Bubb 65), Deering. Subs not used: Mambo, Jordan
BSFC: Walton, Rodgers, Williams, Hickford, Bray, Purse, Ford, Taiwo, Callander (Kabeya 59), Greene (Kouassi 62), Davidson. Subs not used: Lazzari, Ronto