Fleet earned an excellent draw in a pulsating goalless affair at second-placed Aldershot Town and might even have taken all three points in an end-to-end affair that was a creditable response to recent woes for Daryl McMahon’s side.
The boss wasted no time in reshuffling his team after a poor two games against Warrington Town and there were four changes to the side, Jack Connors, Myles Weston, Sean Shields and Aaron McLean making way for Chris Bush, Jack Powell, Luke Coulson and Marvin McCoy. It meant an unfamiliar Fleet lineup with Lawrie Wilson pushed into a wide midfield position ahead of a back four, with Luke Coulson employed just off to the left of Danny Kedwell.
Aldershot forced a corner in the first minute as they looked keen to impose themselves on the game after a two-week break but it was the Fleet who began to show a little more adventure in the final third. The visitors enjoyed a good spell on the front foot with McCoy and Sam Magri getting forward quickly in support of the front runners and it was from a McCoy long throw that the Fleet fashioned a first chance that Dave Winfield headed wide on his return to his former employers.
This was a game that went end to end from early on and both defences had to concentrate as Coulson and Nicke Kabamba threatened to break beyond the respective defences whenever their midfields found space to manouevre. Jim Kellermann wasted a good chance for the Shots, dragging an effort wide, while Coulson was guilty of similar when Kedwell threaded a pass through to him but he dwelled too long before pulling the trigger and an eventual ball out wide to Andy Drury took the edge off the danger.
The Fleet began to enjoy themselves and minutes later Coulson reached the byline to send a low cross whipping across the box that Kedwell met at the far post but he couldn’t dig out a clean connection and Aldershot survived. Coulson had another effort set up by Drury, Powell saw a shot deflected behind for a corner and Bush nodded another cross over the bar as belief coursed through McMahon’s men.
But they didn’t have it all their own way and the home side were neat and tidy building from the back, Will Evans spraying long passes upfield that Kellermann and Manny Oyeleke in particular looked to fashion something from. After former Maidstone winger Bobby-Joe Taylor had seen a shot diverted for a corner, Oyekele carved out the best chance of the game on 41 minutes. Again it was patient build-up play in the final third from the home side and when Oyekele loosed off a shot from a central position it seemed destined to go in as Nathan Ashmore initially dived the wrong way before somehow checking himself and blocking the ball with his legs, allowing Bush to hack it away to safety.
Fleet closed the game out with another chance in time added on, Winfield sliding in at close range to meet a Powell set-piece but he didn’t quite reach it and the referee blew for half-time.
Gary Waddock tried to give his side a little more attacking impetus by bringing on Matt McClure for midfielder Jake Gallagher but the second half went much the way of the first, both teams continuing to enjoy small periods in the ascendancy. With league leaders Macclesfield 4-0 down at half-time, Aldershot were certainly a lot more determined to break Fleet’s resistance but the visiting defence was unbowed.
Coulson once again found some space from a ball over the top straight after the restart but his shot lacked power and Lewis Ward made the save before Kellermann sent a dangerous cross skidding across the face of Ashmore’s goal on 52 minutes. Still the two teams continued to trade chances and it was Fleet’s turn again two minutes later when Drury and Powell performed a neat one-two but Ward was out quickly to block Drury’s follow-up.
Fleet were back on the offensive just past the hour mark but their luck in front of goal wasn’t with them as Powell hooked a fantastic pass over his shoulder that landed at Coulson’s feet but the resulting shot was off target. Ashmore then pulled off another fine stop as Kabamba’s effort went ever so close, though the follow-up was ruled offside, and then it was back to the other end of the pitch where Powell dropped a free-kick from a promising position into the arms of Ward.
The visitors had spells where they defended a little too deep and allowed Aldershot plenty of possession but they swiftly shook off any negative thoughts and kept trying to force the Shots back. Indeed closing the game out in the final 10 minutes, it was the Fleet who enjoyed more play in the Shots half and a few more half chances came their way. A decent delivery bounced for Winfield but he was unable to get a connection on it in the box and Aldershot had to defend a couple of corners.
Still desperate for the three points, Waddock’s side mounted a comeback in the final few minutes. Kellermann fired wide from a good position inside the box as Fleet’s defence for the first time allowed the red shirts too much space and McClure wasn’t far off with another effort. Bush glanced a header to safety as Taylor whipped a dangerous cross into the box while one last chance at the other end saw Weston cut inside and scoop a shot over the upright.
EUFC: Ashmore, McCoy, Magri, Winfield, Bush, Wilson (Weston 78), Payne, Drury, Coulson, Powell (Rance 90), Kedwell (Bubb 87). Subs not used: Shields, Jordan
ATFC: Ward, Alexander, Kinsella, Evans, Fowler, Gallagher (McClure 46), Oyeleke, Taylor, Kabamba (Rendell 76), Kellermann, Fenelon (Rowe 76). Subs not used: Cole.
Attendance: 2,457 (176 Fleet)