Fleet have their chances but Cambridge take the points…
by Ed Miller
Tonight’s result was mainly decided by who best took their chances and in that department, the visitors showed their greater experience, taking home three points despite an excellent first-half showing from the Fleet.
With one change from Saturday’s line-up, James Lindie coming in for Jamie Forshaw, the Fleet seemed to learn their lesson from the first half at Altrincham and settled quickly, nerves in front of their home supporters seemingly non-existent.
Almost from the first whistle, Ishmael Welsh’s tricky feet outclassed his marking full back and he whistled a cross along the visitors’ six-yard box which Leon Crooks just couldn’t connect to.
Ricky Shakes followed that minutes later as he ran onto a loose ball on the edge of the box but spooned a shot wide of the post after he’d eluded the last man.
Before the opening 10 minutes were up, Magno Vieira got wide down the left and sent a shot whizzing across the goalline as Shakes flew in but the ball again bounced clear of a Fleet foot.
Totally against the run of play, however, Cambridge opened the scoring. Mark Beesley collected after a corner and crossed low into the box where Chris Holroyd outfoxed his marker at the near post by flicking the ball into a narrow gap past Lance Cronin.
But the Fleet’s young guns refused to be downhearted and given width down the left by Jordan Collins and the skilful and pacy Welsh, Cambridge’s tactics were very much backs to the wall. On the right, Will Salmon showed his crossing ability and Vieira bent low to the delivery but nodded another good chance agonisingly wide.
The Brazilian, playing against his former club, had another chance moments later sprung the visitors’ offside trap and ran on to Gavin Heeroo’s through pass, but Danny Potter did well to parry the shot and James Lindie’s follow-up was blocked on the line.
Fleet seemed to run out of steam in the final minutes of the half but any thoughts that their chances had disappeared were dispelled within minutes of the restart. On 48 minutes, Welsh lofted a free kick into the box and Crooks had command of the air, rising highest to power a header into the back of the net.
The comeback was short-lived though, as two minutes later, Holroyd exploited a lack of concentration in the Fleet defence, crossed into the six-yard box where Robbie Willmott knocked the ball on into Jai Reason’s path and with Cronin unprotected, the result was a formality.
The Fleet were more disjointed after that and allowed Cambridge to enjoy some ascendancy. Beesley went close with a curling shot that Cronin beat away on 56 minutes and the Fleet goalkeeper did even better to smother Willmott’s follow-up as the visitors looked certain to make the game safe.
Jamie Forshaw almost repeated James Lindie’s trick of Saturday as he came off the bench to almost score with his first touch, bursting through the Cambridge defence but he just couldn’t reach the travelling ball before Potter.
But a third goal for the visitors arrived on 72 minutes, Fleet’s defence again caught napping as Willmott crossed from the right and an unmarked Holroyd glanced a header home. The visitors had chances to put an undeserved sheen on the scoreline but Salmon was well-placed to clear Beesley’s shot off the line after Cronin was beaten.
There was time for Darius Charles to see yellow as his challenge on Wayne Hatswell provoked an altercation between rival players, though the referee failed to spot Hatswell’s retaliatory kick on the Fleet skipper.
It was a harsh defeat for Fleet’s bright young stars as they showed purpose and endeavour in abundance but one that will no doubt serve as a lesson in how to take your chances and when to shut up shop. They will certainly meet better sides on that showing than tonight’s visitors when those lessons will quickly have to be put into practice.
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TEAM: Cronin, Salmon, Collins, Crooks, Charles, Heeroo, Shulton (West 79), Welsh, Shakes (Forshaw 63), Lindie, Vieira. Subs not used: Lamprell, Pooley, Wills