Fleetwood has Fleet in retreat


Blue Square hotshot Stuart Fleetwood proves the difference as Rovers triumph


Forest Green Rovers came away from Stonebridge Road this afternoon with their first-ever win in Northfleet and it was no more than the visitors deserved as goals either side of half-time from 16-goal hotshot Stuart Fleetwood condemned the home side to their second succesive home defeat.

Fleet made four changes with Paul McCarthy and James Smith partnering in central defence, Michael Bostwick returning in midfield after his suspension and Chukki Eribenne leading the line. Playing with Luke Moore and Raphael Nade wide and just behind Eribenne, the Fleet were looking to restore some pride after the FA Cup defeat. And on eight minutes they had their first chance to right those wrongs as Jamie Pitman fouled Eribenne and Stacy Long sent a curling free kick just over Ryan Robinson’s bar. The Fleet were looking spritely in the opening period but Forest Green gradually hauled themselves into the game, Pitman and former Barnet midfielder Simon Clist getting to grips with Michael Bostwick who looked to have added some steel in the middle.

Clist and Pitman both had shots from distance, but former Fleet loanee Chris Giles should have put the visitors a goal up after an uncharacteristic slip from McCarthy. He only had to pick his spot but hit a weak shot which Lance Cronin gathered well, getting down to his right. Bostwick and Raphael Nade both had half chances for the Fleet but the midfield was again bypassed in favour of overhit passes which Giles and Darren Jones gleefully gobbled up.

An even enough first half petered out devoid of much goalmouth action and it was left to Fleetwood to provide some on 40 minutes. Alex Lawless found space 40 yards out and slipped a useful pass through the Fleet defence which Fleetwood sprinted onto ahead of his markers, advanced into the box and never looked like missing as he tucked a clinical shot past Cronin. Eribenne almost responded immediately from the restart but rather miscued his shot as the ball got stuck beneath his feet.

With chances at a premium, Liam Daish would not have wanted the second half to start the way the first half ended, but he must have been livid as Rovers added to their tally just two minutes after the break. In an almost identical move, Pitman eluded a careless Fleet defence that had advanced too far upfield, allowing the pacy Fleetwood to skip ahead of McPhee, the only man back, and in acres of space he eased past Cronin and fired into an empty net.

Jonathan Smith struck a shot against Cronin minutes later and Fleetwood was again looking dangerous running through on 56 minutes but this time McCarthy got to him in time. He had another shot on the hour that the impressive Cronin saved and Mark Beesley should have made it 3-0 on 69 minutes when he rather wasted a good opportunity from the centre of the penalty area.

It was only when Fleetwood, Beesley and Pitman made way for replacements in the last 20 minutes that the Fleet even looked like raising their game. McPhee and Bostwick both attempted shots and Nade had a decent effort from a Stacy Long corner on 72 minutes that Robinson was forced to tip over the bar, but those few chances aside they rarely troubled the visiting custodian.

Fleet resorted to pushing McCarthy up front until he was substituted on 86 minutes and McPhee tried his luck in that position but in truth Jim Harvey’s well-drilled Rovers saw out the remaining time without exertion to take another three points towards what could be for them – and on this evidence – a play-off place.

TEAM: Cronin, McPhee, Opinel, Smith, McCarthy (Maskell 86), Barrett (Ricketts 66), Bostwick, Long, Moore, Nade, Eribenne (Liam Coleman 53). Subs not used: Mott, Goodhind.

Attendance: 930


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