Bath City 1-3 Fleet

An all-action first-half provided the points for the Fleet as the Dom-Raks partnership chalked up another three goals to its name in this prolific season for the pair.

It was a brave attempt in the second half by the home side who might have been forgiven for shutting up shop and giving in after three injuries in the first 30 minutes and an equaliser that lasted all of 60 seconds. They kept the Fleet on their toes to the end despite trailing by two goals but with the hard work done in the first-half, the visitors were well worth their three points and could conserve their energies ahead of another trip down the M4 on Tuesday.

The win marked Fleet’s seventh in a row in the league and a sixth straight victory over Bath City as well.

Fleet made two changes with last Saturday’s goalscoring hero Franklin Domi coming in alongside Billy Clifford, Josh Wright and Toby Edser making way.

Bath – as their manager had promised – came out with intent and had a sniff within the first four minutes when Cody Cooke broke past Luke O’Neill and tried to find Luke Spokes but Mark Cousins was out for that. Moments later, the Fleet back line was caught as Scott Wilson shaped up for an effort from 12 yards but an important challenge by a well-positioned Christian N’Guessan mopped that up.

Fleet’s first chance came on seven minutes, Domi teeing Greg Cundle up out wide. He found Rakish Bingham lurking in the middle but the No.9 hit his effort high. A one-two between Clifford and Cundle promised more as the winger played a ball across goal but behind his fellow attackers as Fleet began to find a little more rhythm.

Bath, with defensive problems before the match, lost full-back Danny Greenslade to what appeared to be a hamstring issue on 11 minutes, and seven minutes later further luck deserted them as top scorer Cody Cooke received a nasty cut to the bridge of his nose. While he was off receiving treatment, Fleet took full advantage and Omari Sterling-James found wriggle room down by the byline to play a ball back into the box where Poleon turned it home for his 21st league goal of the season.

Cooke couldn’t continue and Bath had used two of their three subs before the 20-minute mark. And the third enforced change for the luckless home side came before the half-hour when new loan signing Callum Sullivan succumbed to another knock and on came Chris Lines.

Fleet had a couple of near moments when Sterling got in behind and once or twice Bath looked a little unsteady playing out from the back but as the visitors looked to be coasting towards the break with three minutes left, Spokes picked up play in midfield and found Dan Hayfield out wide. His cross outfoxed the red shirts and substitute Cox lashed an effort on target with Cousins unable to get across.

That disappointment for the travelling fans turned to jubilation with the next Fleet attack. Domi’s effort hit the woodwork but bounced down for Poleon to acrobatically smack it goalwards and in.

Five minutes of added time were announced and Fleet wouldn’t let up. Two goals became three with Domi involved again, a short pass to Poleon in turn played on for Bingham. The No.9 danced around goalkeeper Max Harris and slotted it home for 3-1.

It might not even have finished there as Bath earned a free-kick wide on the right and the set-piece was flashed across goal and cleared to Hayfield who then whistled an effort over the bar.

Dominic Poleon celebrates his opener at Twerton Park

The beginning of the second half would have been doing well to match the conclusion of the first and so it proved as Fleet were content to prevent Bath getting any foothold in the game. The visitors did carve out a good move with Frear down the right on 53 minutes as his run and cross had gaps opening in the red defence but that one was flagged offside.

Fleet responded immediately and Clifford struck a free-kick on target and it needed an athletic push over the bar by Harris to keep that out. Bingham glanced a header back into the danger area from the subsequent corner but Bath eventually cleared their lines.

The hosts refused to lie down and Hayfield was sent free down the right on the hour mark, Cousins quick off his line as striped shirts piled around him. And the Fleet goalkeeper, a bystander for much of the first half, had to stay alert to intercept a couple of ambitious efforts from Bath who may well have posed more of a threat with that second goal in their pocket.

It was an understandably slower tempo by the Fleet as the clock ticked down and Dennis Kutrieb made full use of his three substitutes ahead of a midweek clash at Chippenham. Chris Solly had to head a searching Bath cross from out under his bar and then a superb Cousins block eight minutes from the end from Spokes and a follow-up body thrown into the fray courtesy of N’Guessan in the box, after Cox pounced on the rebound, saved the visitors from a more nervous finish.

James Morton’s speculative shot in time added on had Cousins scrambling towards his upright to see it out for a corner and then another brave defensive block from that prevented the follow-up troubling the Fleet goalkeeper.

It was solid work from the Fleet defence, however, just as it had been clinical stuff from the strikeforce earlier on in the game and another important three points was banked as all three title rivals claimed maximum points.

EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill, Hollis, Solly, N’Guessan, Clifford (Coulthirst 70), Domi (Edser 62), Sterling-James (McQueen 76), Cundle, Bingham, Poleon. Subs: Romain, Chapman
BCFC: Harris, Greenslade (Frear 11), Dyer, Batten, Parselle, Hayfield, Cooke (Cox 18), Sullivan (Lines 30), Spokes, Wilson, Morton. Subs: Smith, Clarke
Attendance: 1,066

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