Fleet ease past ailing Alty

EBBSFLEET UNITED 2-0 ALTRINCHAM

Chris McPhee and Stacy Long score to put the pressure on Altrincham…

EBBSFLEET UNITED 2-0 ALTRINCHAM

Another relegation-threatened visiting side, another win for Liam Daish’s men this afternoon at Stonebridge Road as the Fleet put in a professional performance to claim all three points.

It might have been the Fleet’s 16th game since March 1st but with a few changes to freshen things up, the home side looked anything but lethargic as they coasted to a 2-0 victory to keep them on course to equal last season’s points haul.

With Chris McPhee, Luke Moore and John Akinde part of a three-pronged attack and with a quartet of central defenders playing in the back four, there was an unfamiliar shape to Daish’s side. The Fleet began the stronger in midfield but there was little goalmouth action to speak of, with Michael Bostwick’s off-target shot on 20 minutes the best either side could muster. Immediately after that effort, Neil Barrett went closer when he manoeuvred Stacy Long’s pass into space on the edge of the penalty area and struck a shot that whistled past Stuart Coburn’s right post.

Those chances sparked the Fleet into life and Moore was unfortunate to see his cross elude his teammates after Coburn had been grounded and the ball flew harmlessly across an empty net. McPhee missed with a header and shot inside three minutes of each other while Long also got into a good position but fired over. McPhee had a third chance on 35 minutes, advancing from the right into the box but his shot was bundled away by Coburn.

Altrincham were restricted to the odd breakaway that failed to unduly upset the Fleet back four, though on 38 minutes they should have taken the lead. Chris Senior and Colin Little exchanged passes down the left and as the Fleet defence raced to cover they opened a gaping hole for Greg Tansey to run into down the right but his header was scrambled away by Darius Charles, who had another excellent game for the Fleet at left back.

Within two minutes the Fleet made Alty pay, Charles and Bostwick combining to cause confusion in the penalty area and McPhee slid in to beat Greg Young to the loose ball which he somewhat fortuitously prodded past Coburn.

Seven minutes into the second half and the visitors’ dimunitive but prolific strike force carved out a golden opportunity for an equaliser when a long ball was nodded on by Little to Senior but he blasted it over the bar from 16 yards. Again Alty were made to pay for a missed chance as Warren Peyton made an absolute hash of a back pass to his goalkeeper which Akinde intercepted but the young Fleet striker dwelt far too long on the ball with only the keeper to beat and the ball was cleared. Much to Altrincham’s chagrin it went only as far as Stacy Long who, arriving in from the edge of the box, buried a rasping drive in the back of the net.

Despite stepping up a gear and enjoying more possession, the visitors rarely found opportunities and those chances they did have were wastefully sent over the bar. First Little hit a shot over the bar after Cronin fumbled and then on 57 minutes Peter Hawkins was guilty of playing keepy-uppy on the edge of his own box and Senior nipped in but with only Cronin to beat, skied his shot to the bemusement of the Altrincham contingent behind the goal. Tansey also had time to sample the delights of shooting over the bar before Alty’s best chance on 63 minutes from a free kick when Greg Young rose above everyone to power a seemingly goalbound header into the bottom corner but Cronin leapt wide to pull off an excellent mid-air save.

The energetic Ryan Shotton did get the ball into the back of the net on 75 minutes, beating Paul McCarthy to a header, but the flag was raised for offside. After the visitors’ best spell of the match had petered out, the Fleet coasted towards full time without looking in much danger of letting their lead slip. Moore jinked into a good position on 79 minutes but his shot was blocked while at the other end, with a minute remaining, Alty could have grabbed a consolation when Shotton’s header beat everyone except Darius Charles and he cleared off the line.

With the Fleet just two games from the finishing line, and having the rare luxury of only two games next week, they look to be hitting some form again to close out the season. Altrincham, meanwhile, have only one game left to ensure survival and must endure a nervous Tuesday night on the sidelines until they play Weymouth next Saturday.

TEAM: Cronin, Hawkins, Charles, McCarthy, Smith, Bostwick, Barrett (Hearn 63), Long (Purcell 87), McPhee, Akinde (Eribenne 63), Moore. Subs not used: Mott, MacDonald.

Att: 911

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