Fleet added some late respectability to the scoreline in a game where they came off second best against a side who moved into second place in Skrill South courtesy of three points tonight.
Ben May started as lone striker, meaning Billy Bricknell was on the bench while Dean Rance returned in midfield and Chris Sessegnon replaced Alex Osborn, who wasn’t risked after his injury on Saturday. Looking to build on their run of six wins, Fleet started brightly enough but were undone on just nine minutes when former Dagenham and Barnet striker Cliff Akurang – once a target of Liam Daish’s for the Fleet – let fly with a stunning shot on the turn after bringing the ball under control, giving Preston Edwards no chance.
Fleet attempted to haul themselves back into things, with Daryl McMahon and Anthony Cook having shots on goal but the home side – managed by Rod Stringer who guided Braintree to Conference South glory – were playing some neat football and pushing the visitors further and further back. With Kyle Vassell and Akurang the chief threats, Bishop’s Stortford were unlucky not to increase their lead when Reece Prestedge left the Fleet defence for dead with a ball through to Ashley Miller and his cross was delivered just over the bar by Akurang.
Callum McNaughton had another chance for 2-0 on 22 minutes when he dived in on a wickedly curling corner but just couldn’t make contact. However, the home side’s disappointment lasted only five more minutes before they extended their lead. Matt Johnson’s free kick found Sean Francis in the Fleet box and he headed back into the danger area where Akurang was on hand to fire the ball home.
Fleet lost Joe Howe to injury after that and for the home side Anthony Church earned himself a yellow card for simulation which was to prove costly later in the game. Fleet were then given something of a respite when Akurang succumbed to a knock and had to be replaced on 30 minutes. Not that it upset the home side unduly and twice more they went close – first, former Fleet defender Johnny Herd letting fly with a shot and then substitute Sykes’ cross just evading the touch of the impressive Vassell.
Fleet’s best effort before half-time was Cook’s driven free-kick, gathered well by goalkeeper Josh Wright.
And the visitors needed to start the second half with more purpose, to get bodies up to support the isolated May – but before they could get going again, Stortford put the game out of reach. Herd got free of Sessegnon down the Fleet right and played the ball into Vassell who turned it past Edwards on 54 minutes.
The energetic home side had Fleet on the rack and Prestedge fired just over on the hour mark, quickly followed by Sykes feeling confident enough to try an overhead kick.
Fleet’s efforts in the final third were hardly noteworthy until the home side were reduced to 10 men six minutes from time, Church getting his marching orders with a second yellow card.
Suddenly, the Fleet had a lease of life. Cook fired a free-kick just over the bar, followed by Shane Huke clearing the woodwork by roughly the same distance with a header.
And those two players managed to reduce the arrears in time added on. First Huke fired a sweet strike into the corner to make it 3-1, closely followed by Cook’s solo run and shot from distance for 3-2. Unfortunately for the visitors, that in turn was closely followed by the final whistle.
TEAM: Edwards, Howe (Sankofa 27), Palmer, McMahon (Bricknell 58), Lorraine, Huke, Sessegnon, Rance, May (Thalassitis 75), Long, Cook.
Subs not used: Hall, Corcoran.