It was another frustrating hour and a half for fans and players alike as Fleet drew a blank and the hopes of a first home win of the season were left unfulfilled. Having promised changes in midweek, Steve Brown handed Andy Pugh his debut in place of Michael Thalassitis and Stacy Long replaced Dominic Green on the left of midfield.
Boreham Wood, minus their ex-Fleet trio of Calum Willock, the injured Ricky Shakes and the suspended Mark Bentley, were on the back foot from the first whistle as the Fleet camped in their half for much of the opening 20 minutes. The home side forced a couple of early free-kicks, Daryl McMahon firing straight at the goalkeeper and Anthony Cook sending another into the wall, followed by a succession of corners that were dealt with by the Boreham Wood defence.
Fleet could have taken the lead on 14 minutes, however, after a good build-up involving Shane Huke, Billy Bricknell and Pugh saw Stacy Long attempt to curl the ball around James Russell who dived low to his left to turn it around the post. But that chance aside, the Fleet were again restricted to neat build-up play in the final third but without involving their strikers in the danger area. Debutant Pugh showed some nice touches and lay-offs but on the only occasion he got to run at the goalkeeper in the penalty area, he was inexplicably penalised for a supposed foul on Charlie O’Loughlin.
Russell again saved the day for Wood on 34 minutes when McMahon’s decent drive from 25 yards was pushed wide of the near post by the goalkeeper and three minutes later, Billy Bricknell twisted and turned inside three defenders but his shot cleared the other post.
The second half began with a change of officials as the referee withdrew with an injury and both the replacement referee and the Fleet began the second period unsteady on their feet. A series of defensive mix-ups almost gifted the visitors, who had ended the first half well, an early goal in the second. Huke played the ball into the path of a visiting striker and then Preston Edwards and Paul Lorraine contrived to let the ball stick under their feet with blue shirts looming.
That was the sum total of the visitors’ best efforts, however, and the tempo of the match slowed as Fleet attempted to pick the lock. Brown introduced Michael Thalassitis for Bricknell, and later Alex Osborn for Pugh, but again had little to show bar a McMahon solo run that culminated in his shot flashing just wide of the post on 66 minutes.
Stacy Long made way for Tom Phipp as Fleet got the bit between their teeth again in the final 10 minutes and Huke’s 82nd minute strike from a corner was somehow hacked off the line by Jerome Jibodu with the goalkeeper beaten and then Thalassitis attempted a lob over Russell.
There was still time with just seconds on the clock for Cook to weave his way into the box where he was clearly pushed in the back by O’Loughlin – whose robust style won him few admirers in the crowd – but the referee waved play on. At least he did for 10 more seconds until the final whistle when he was surrounded by angry and frustrated Fleet players and staff demanding to know why they had been denied the penalty.
Fleet have a week off league action against Folkestone Invicta next week – and probably gladly so as it will be something of a diversion from a frustrating campaign.
TEAM: Edwards, Howe, Palmer, McMahon, Lorraine, Huke, Cook, Rance, Pugh (Osborn, Long (Phipp 83), Bricknell (Thalassitis 63). Subs not used: Hall, Sankofa.