Ebbsfleet saw three points go begging as, despite a late Sean Shields strike that looked to have won it, Hemel’s quickfire response levelled matters to peg Fleet back for the third time in three games.
The visitors could even have won it in time added on but for a Nathan Ashmore save after manager Daryl McMahon bemoaned a “schoolboy goal to concede”.
The Fleet boss was able to call on Bradley Bubb for the first time this season and, along with Danny Kedwell, the strike pairing replaced Charlie Sheringham and Anthony Cook in the lineup.
Fleet were bright in the opening spell and Sam Deering’s break upfield and low delivery into the box on five minutes was met by Bubb, requiring a decent save from goalkeeper Jonathan Henly. But a minute later the Fleet were ahead in bizarre circumstances as Jordan Rose attempted to cushion a back header towards his goalkeeper who clearly hadn’t read his intentions and it went over him and over the line.
The home side enjoyed the bulk of possession with Hemel feeling their way into the game. Another good spell on 10 minutes saw both Sean Shields and Kedwell tee up efforts with balls into the box but twice Henly managed to punch clear, while Kedwell also saw a header cleared off the line.
Hemel grew into the game and ventured forward with Ashmore having to save from James Potton at his near post and a David King cross being helped away by a combination of the woodwork and Marvin McCoy.
Fleet stepped it up again from the half-hour mark and Kedwell had a header scrambled away while a neat build-up saw Shields charge through the middle and despatch a shot just wide. Deering then floated a free kick from the left flank just over the bar.
But with Fleet seemingly heading for the break in the lead, they let that lead slip. Three minutes from the break, Hemel won one more of several free-kicks on the edge of the box. Former Whitehawk midfielder Scott Neilson did well to bend it round the wall and on target but Ashmore could only get a touch without being able to prevent it billowing the net for 1-1.
The second half was short on entertaining fare until its final moments as neither side really imposed themselves on midfield and balls upfield continued to be too hopeful, misplaced or else holding up in the wind. But Fleet had a fine chance on 55 minutes, nonetheless, when Kedwell beat Tony Diagne to the byline and delivered an excellent short cross to Deering’s feet. The Fleet midfielder took a touch and got his shot away but he was denied by a decent challenge from James Kaloczi.
Shields sent an effort wide but that was the last attempt on goal by Fleet for some while. At the other end, Neilson continued to probe just in front of the Fleet defence and Jake Robinson tried his luck with a shot that Ashmore saved but Hemel were gradually gaining more space and territory, a sure sign of that coming on 72 minutes when Arnaud Mendy hit the post.
There certainly didn’t look to be two goals left in the game but it all sprung to life in the last quarter hour. As Jack Connors advanced down the left and into the box, he was bundled over for Fleet’s second penalty in as many games. After a lengthy hold-up as Hemel made a substitution and the referee deliberated over some player shenanigans on the edge of the box, Kedwell finally stepped up to crash a low shot to Henly’s left but the keeper got a hand to it and the Fleet No.9 couldn’t turn the rebound home.
It seemed unlikely that the home side would fashion any further chances but two minutes later, Shields popped up 20 yards out, sidestepped the challenge of Harry Osborne and fired home a great shot to the immense relief of the home support.
It was relief that lasted barely seconds. Perhaps casting their minds back to December when Fleet pulled off a similar trick at Vauxhall Road, Hemel equalised straight from the kick-off. The home defence stood off as the ball forward was exploited by Robinson, nipping in to deliver past Ashmore for 2-2.
The frenetic climax continued as substitute Sheringham looked to have won another penalty for the Fleet as he attempted to get a shot away from eight yards but with the ball caught under his feet, it seemed David King had gathered it in his arms briefly, but the referee waved play on. Fleet were on the front foot in the six minutes of added time but could find no way through and Hemel might have won it themselves with the last action of the afternoon being a goalbound shot from Robinson that Ashmore pushed behind.
EUFC: Ashmore, McCoy, Connors, Lewis (Powell 64), Winfield, Clark, Deering, Rance, Kedwell, Bubb (Sheringham 70), Shields. Subs not used: Greenidge, Miles, McQueen
HHTFC: Henly, King, Kelly, Mendy, Diagne (Osborne 77), Rose (Asafu-Adjaye 60), Neilson, Corcoran, Robinson, Potton (Wise 83), Kaloczi. Subs not used: Weiss, Richens