Burton 3-1 Fleet



Report by Allan Main

A little over a month ago, this fixture would have been
billed as a clash of two promotion hopefuls. As it was, a fifth league defeat
in a row for the Fleet made such headlines laughably inaccurate as Burton
showed the sort of resilience and control consistent with a side gunning for
the top while the Fleet, despite a spirited last half hour, are left staring at
the bottom of the table.

Luke Moore?s leg injury forced Liam Daish into a straight swap, Ricky Shakes
coming in at right midfield while James Smith kept his place as Paul McCarthy
failed a late fitness test.

Any hopes that the Fleet could settled into a rhythm were
soon dashed by an eager Burton side welcoming back defender Tony James and
starting recent loan signing from Derby, Paris Simmons. Barely three minutes
were on the clock when Smith conceded a somewhat unnecessary corner, Keith
Gilroy played it short then launched the return into the area and left-back
Aaron Webster rose unmarked to head home.

Jon Newby and top scorer Greg Pearson were testing the shaky
Fleet defence and the two combined well on 9 minutes, only for Pearson?s
chest-down in the box to run away from him. The Fleet?s first real effort on 14
minutes saw Craig Stone?s good work send Ricky Shakes clear down the right but
Kezie Ibe just failed to get on the end of an inviting cross.

Stone, and behind him Mark Ricketts, were the players
standing out for the Fleet as Burton took their foot off the gas and the game
petered out as a spectacle, both sides utilising a route-one delivery to their
forwards. The Fleet, again enjoying a fair amount of possession, lacked any
real penetration and failed to make any sustained pressure tell in the Burton

Daish, taking it in turns to remonstrate with the fourth
official and his captain for the day Neil Barrett, was looking more displeased
by the minute as the Fleet?s distribution was undermined by their constantly
giving the ball away and from one such mistake, Sacha Opinel allowed Newby to cross
into Pearson only for Smith to intervene with a saving header.

On 40 minutes, hearts were in mouths as Paris Simmons sent
Pearson clear again and as he went round Cronin, the Fleet goalkeeper did well
to push him wide as his defenders rushed to cover. Pearson still managed to get
a pass in but Newby fortunately let fly over the bar. Darius Charles, Shakes
and Ibe had half-chances in the closing minutes for the Fleet before Gilroy
beat off the challenge of Ricketts at the other end and crossed to Pearson but
the striker missed the target, shooting wide from just inside the area.

The Fleet came out a little more positively in the second
half with Opinel and Barrett trying their luck from distance. On 54 minutes,
Michael Gash twisted into the box only to go down under a challenge that
appeared to be more of a penalty than either of the two at Woking the week
before. The referee?s disinterest was crucial as barely a minute later Newby fed
the impressive Simmons and his shot rebounded off the crossbar into Gilroy?s
path and the former Irish U21 international stabbed the ball home.

Wretched as they appeared, the Fleet managed to pick themselves
off the ground and within four minutes had reduced the arrears. With his back
to goal, Gash writhed clear of his markers and played the ball across goal for
the approaching Ibe to squeeze home. The goal galvanised the visitors and the
influential Stone snapped off an excellent shot on 72 minutes that looked to
have beaten the goalkeeper but it swung off target.

Substitute Purcell turned a Shakes cross round the post and
as Daish brought Bowes on for Ibe, Fleet fans could sense another comeback in the
air. But it wasn?t to be as on 81 minutes, in a carbon-copy of the first goal,
slack marking again allowed Webster to claim his second goal of the game, the
experienced defender ghosting in at the far post to nod Gilroy?s cross past

Despite the restored two-goal deficit, the Fleet refused to
give up and Bowes knocked a useful ball into the danger area that Gash glanced wide.
A period of play on the ground also saw a good move that Shakes got on the end
of but his shot at the far post lacked intent.

Alas time ran out for the visitors but not too soon for
Ricketts, who in the last minute of four added on bundled Shaun Harrad to the
floor. It barely looked like a yellow-card offence but referee Mohareb,
oblivious to the covering defenders, showed the Fleet right-back a straight
red. With the Fleet now only four points and four places above the drop zone,
it may be Liam Daish showing them the red card in the transfer window if
results don?t improve dramatically.

Cronin, Ricketts, Opinel, Smith (Hand 88), Charles, Stone, Shakes, Barrett, Long (Purcell 61), Ibe (Bowes 78), Gash. Subs not used: Mott
Att: 1,584


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