Hemel Hempstead Town 1-2 Fleet

An incredible three-goal finale to a goalless 80 minutes saw Fleet score two very late goals to snatch three points where one would probably have been perfectly acceptable after Hemel had converted their own late strike.

It is games such as these you look back on at the end of a season as pivotal moments and if Fleet do achieve their ambitions, this game will surely be spoken of as such a one.

Daryl McMahon reverted to his tried and tested back four as Joe Howe returned from injury and lined up with Matt Fish while John-Paul Kissock was relegated to the bench, giving Danny Haynes a start.

Fleet won the toss and elected to kick uphill against the wind in the first-half and they began with more purpose than their hosts, forcing two corners in the opening minutes. Danny Kedwell smashed a shot into the side netting from an angle while Haynes in particular looked full of energy out wide.

Matt Godden looked like he’d created space for himself for a run on goal before a rather hasty linesman’s flag resulted in plenty of agitation from the crowd and a brief war of words between players as Godden was pushed off the ball.

With the wind aiding Hemel’s cause, they soon gained a foothold in the game and Fleet found it difficult to hold on to the ball in midfield, Brandon Hall’s goal kicks simply being blown back or headed back into the Fleet half time and again.

On 13 minutes Luton Town loanee Zane Banton crashed a shot off the Fleet bar from 25 yards, an excellent effort that drew some of its venom from the wind that helped propel it at speed. Former Maidstone skipper Steve Watt almost capitalised from an inswinging free-kick that dropped invitingly eight yards out and Hall had to make a great save to push it away, being the busier of the two goalkeepers.

Fleet took a while to settle but they soon began to enjoy a little more possession and ventured forwards, which in turn took the sting out of Hemel’s game. And on 31 minutes, the visitors could have been a goal to the good when Haynes advanced to the byline and whipped in a low cross that Parkes met first-time, fewer than six yards out, but somehow Butler, rooted to his goalline, stuck out a leg and deflected it away from the goal.

Fleet finished the half comfortably after a tricky early spell and hopes were high that kicking down the slope and with the wind at their backs that the all-important goal would come.

The second-half, however, was a tame affair, punctuated by a few good build-ups but little in the way of chances. One such move on 53 minutes saw Parkes carve out a half-chance for Kedwell but Kyle Connelly got in the way of his low drive which appeared to be on target.

Three minutes later Godden saw a curling shot take two deflections, the second redirecting the ball just past Butler’s far post as Fleet enjoyed a brief spell in the ascendancy.

Play went from one end to the other but Fish’s 67th minute shot that flew just over the bar was Fleet’s last effort of note before Hemel started to up their game. Led from the back by the impressive Ben Herd, with Banton creating plenty from midfield, the home side started to look dangerous and it took a well-timed Kenny Clark intervention to deny Oliver Hawkins running through on goal.

Hall had to tip Herd’s cross-cum-shot from the corner over the bar as Hemel forced several corners and it was from one such set piece seven minutes from time that the Tudors forced what at that stage looked like a winner. Another delivery from wide caused consternation in the Fleet box as Hawkins rose to head the ball back into the six-yard box and as players scrambled to get a foot on it, Michael Richens produced enough power to force it over the line to the delight of the home contingent.

Fleet had looked short on ideas in breaking Hemel down in the final stages and such a revival appeared a little unlikely – but the away team’s spirit shone through. With time ticking away, Hemel substituted Sharif on the far touchline who understandably took an age to leave the field. With the next action, Fish floated in a free-kick from the centre circle which looked to have too much power on it, but it dropped nicely for Godden to nip in and head it beyond Butler for the equaliser.

Then in the third minute of time added on, Fleet fans were in seventh heaven. Another ball in towards Clark saw him receive a boot in the face as he went for goal and the referee pointed to the spot as the Fleet defender went down. It was Kedwell who accepted the immense responsibility and it looked to be no bother to him as he powered his spot-kick past a hapless Butler to give Fleet a precious and well-received three points.

HHTFC: Butler, Herd, Connelly,Forbes, Watt, Spring, Banton, Richens, Hawkins, Slabber, Sharif. Subs: Potton, Jules, Husin, Smith, Ginsburg
EUFC: Hall, Fish, Howe, Lewis, Clark, Bonner, Rance, Parkes (West 70), Kedwell, Godden, Haynes (Sheringham 80). Subs not used: Miles, Acheampong, Kissock
Attendance: 571


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