Fleet claimed three goals and a win against Bath City for the second time this season as they defied the odds to stage a late rally despite the sending-off of goalkeeper Preston Edwards.
Naming an unchanged side after the midweek Trophy exit at York, Liam Daish had impressed the need for his team to get back to winning ways – and bottom club Bath seemed as good a place as any to do so.
With the impetus on attack given the forward players in their line-up, the Fleet began well with Nathaniel Pinney in the action on 4 minutes, turning well but his effort was well gathered by goalkeeper Glyn Garner. But Garner’s afternoon turned sour four minutes later when Gozie Ugwu knocked a long ball on towards goal and it looked like a regulation mop-up operation for the goalkeeper but the ball slipped clear from beneath him, allowing Ugwu to lay it back for Pinney who had the simplest of chances to roll the ball home for 1-0.
Bath could have been straight back on level terms as Marc Canham touched in Marley Watkins’ shot on 10 minutes, but Canham had just strayed into an offside position. The home side put the pressure on the visiting goal and Edwards, like his opposite number, didn’t find the surface to his liking as he struggled to stay on his feet on occasion.
On 20 minutes he had a let-off as Lee Phillips appeared to have got clear only to go to ground as Edwards challenged him – a surefire penalty the home side thought, but referee Barratt waved play on. Bath were edging the game as Fleet’s midfield took a good half hour to get a grip on proceedings, though Lewis Hogg and Phillips both continued to threaten and the latter curled a shot wide on 36 minutes with the goal in his sights.
But Fleet could have gone in at half-time with a 2-0 lead when a poor clearance fell to Ugwu in the box but his shot was well saved as Garner blocked with his legs.
The second half started fairly quietly, with Canham letting a good chance deflect away after being set up by Watkins, while at the other end Pinney did brilliantly to unlock the Bath defence but his pass into the box was just behind the advancing Calum Willock.
The game opened up just after the hour mark, however, as Bath clawed their way back into the game. On 61 minutes, Hogg’s corner was cleared back to him and he delivered deep where Gethin Jones was waiting to head home the equaliser.
And things went from bad to worse six minutes later for the Fleet in a moment of confusion. There were tentative shouts for a penalty as Tom Phipp and Yado Mambo went down in the Bath area and tempers flared, with the home side’s Adam Connolly later floored by a challenge. With Hogg, Phillips and Edwards then involved in an exchange some 40 yards from goal, the referee issued a straight red to Edwards for what was possibly an arm raised in Hogg’s direction. Rookie keeper Tom McNeil replaced Liam Enver-Marum for the Fleet and immediately saw Canham fire wide as Phillips was in a great position to shoot.
Bath sensed the game was there for the taking and twice came close, Canham’s shot diverted wide by Phillips with the goal gaping and then Mark Preece hacking a shot off-target from a corner. But Fleet, ever dangerous on the break, delivered a sucker punch 11 minutes from time when the impressive Ugwu led a quick counterattack and played the ball into the path of Ricky Shakes – on the field only three minutes – who slammed a good shot past Garner.
The 10 men saw the final 10 minutes without undue worry and sealed the game in the final minute when Andy Gallinagh’s sloppy back pass put Garner in trouble and Ugwu was there, nipping in and rounding Garner to make it 3-1. It was just as well for with seven minutes of time added on, Bath managed to get a second when substitute Sean Canham struck a decent shot that went over McNeil but with barely a minute left of additional time it was too little, too late.