Fleet produce scintillating display on their travels to see off promotion rivals Dover…
After defeat at home to Bromley and a draw against Thurrock, there was a grudging acceptance from some on the terraces that it would be “typical” of the Fleet to get something at Dover against the odds.
And so it proved as after an early wobble, the Fleet served up their best performance for some weeks, if not of the whole season.
Having failed to land a striker before kick-off, Liam Daish kept faith with Calum Willock and Ricky Shakes and with Michael West still struggling for fitness, Conor Okus filled his boots. As on so many occasions before, what seemed like a long-term injury to Dean Pooley was nothing of the sort after the man himself bounced back to make the starting XI.
But the Fleet number five endured a torrid start. After a bright opening, the Fleet were on the back foot as early as the fifth minute when Pooley’s back pass to Preston Edwards didn’t escape the predatory instincts of Dover hotshot Adam
Birchall and he nipped in, rounded Edwards and rolled the ball home.
Birchall in such a manner would have been top of Daish’s list of things not to do but the Fleet responded to that early disappointment in fine style. On 11 minutes, Ryan Blake fed Conor Okus who turned Luke l’Anson with ease and delivered a cross that a stooping Tom Phipp connected with to score his ninth goal of the season.
Showing more width to their play than in recent weeks, Fleet upped the tempo in midfield in front of a very noise crowd at Crabble. And after a penalty claim was turned down on 16 minutes, it took only another two for the visitors to take the lead courtesy of another set piece. Twenty yards out, Ashley Carew struck a free kick through a somewhat ragged wall that bounced in front of goalkeeper Ross Flitney on its way over the line to send the Fleet supporters into raptures.
After that there was no looking back for the Fleet as they pushed Dover on to the back foot and refused to relent until the final whistle. Okus and Ram Marwa ran things from midfield with two powerhouse performances and up front Shakes and Willock were full of endeavour. Indeed the former almost set up the latter for a third goal as Shakes powered through the Whites defence to supply his strike partner but Flitney got the ball away.
Four minutes before half-time and the Fleet had their second penalty shout when Willock looked to have been felled by Tom Wynter and then Shakes missed another chance to extend the lead and the purple shirts had to settle for a slender but very welcome single-goal lead at half-time.
And if the Fleet were expecting a Dover onslaught in the second half they were pleasantly surprised – but that had as much to do with another controlled second-half showing as much as the home side failing to create much of real note. As the temperature dropped, the Fleet fans kept warm with some boisterous singing and within 10 minutes were aglow courtesy of a two-goal lead.
This time Phipp was creator rather than scorer after Marwa had shrugged off one-time Fleet transfer target Barry Cogan and Phipp knocked in a high cross that Willock beat a hesitant Flitney to.
Dover huffed and puffed with I’Anson and Cogan firing over and wide respectively but by now the Fleet were buoyant and their defenders kept danger man Birchall quiet.
Comfortable on the ball, the Fleet treated their supporters to a vintage display of controlled football. Shakes had one final chance and then Willock almost nipped in ahead of Flitney who had emerged too far from goal but there was little more action and no further goals as the visitors cruised home for an important and morale-boosting three points.
Post-match, Daish was delighted, saying his players were “disciplined, powerful, strong and quick. They answered a few questions today. We had a little chat about things after the [Thurrock] match and this was the response I was looking for.”
TEAM: Edwards, Stone, Blake, Carew, Pooley, Lorraine, Okus, Marwa (Duncan 90), Willock, Phipp (Howe 78), Shakes (G Williams 90). Subs not used: Hagan, Adam Williams.
Ram Marwa won Tuesday’s man of the match by a whisker. Vote for today’s [ HERE ].