Drenched Fleet fans watched their side go behind for the eighth time at home and fall to defeat for the sixth occasion as away-day specialists Harrogate Town struck in either half to reward their fans who had made the long trip in awful conditions from North Yorkshire.
Fleet needed to match the heights they reached at Dagenham last weekend and then some but despite going toe to toe with the visitors for half an hour, the opening goal set Harrogate on the road to victory and they never looked back in a poor game where neither side fashioned many opportunities.
There were no changes for the Fleet as Reise Allassani made his home debut and the need to keep things tight early on was almost undone when Nathan Ashmore’s 2nd minute clearance fell to George Thomson 25 yards out whose attempted lob fortunately came down into the Fleet goalkeeper’s arms as he scampered back to shield his goal.
Fleet won two free-kicks in quick succession, the second 18 yards out as Dean Rance was fouled on the line, falling inside the box from Josh Falkingham’s challenge. Nothing came of those, however, and the weather conditions were the only things dominating out on the pitch. There were plenty of challenges flying in, with the referee initially allowing for the slippery pitch, but neither goalkeeper had anything to do.
Corey Whitely was the first player into the book on 27 minutes when Harrogate broke swiftly down the right and as Jack Emmett threatened to race free, the Fleet No.18 body-checked him. That was the first real note of danger from the visitors as they began to pass the ball around with more fluidity than their hosts and with chances at a premium, they took the first one that went their way from a set piece.
It came via a corner from the right which was hooked in towards the back post, clearing the Fleet defenders but slotted home by central defender Callum Howe who appeared to move Winfield out of the way with a push on his run in.
Rance picked up the second yellow of the afternoon for clattering Emmett, which sparked a mass argument, but that was probably the liveliest moment of the half. Weston had tried to make inroads down the right but Fleet had failed to get a cross in from their left flank. Chris Bush attempted to rectify that on 38 minutes with a bullish run through two defenders and his cross to the far post was the best Fleet had managed, angled in towards the waiting Weston but Howe got in his way and the shot went over the bar.
A further downpour at half-time did little to improve conditions and the second-half was indeed the very definition of a damp squib. Sam Magri replaced Bagasan Graham at half-time as Fleet adopted a back-four. It took another 10 minutes for much of note to happen, Weston’s free-kick floating towards the back post where Winfield got around the back but his foot could only send the ball wide of the upright.
Jack Powell replaced Ebou Adams and there were a couple of shouts for handball in the box from the Fleet, with frustrations of corner decisions going the other way adding to the general feeling of malaise. Harrogate continued to block any path to goal and they had the game sewn up with 18 minutes left. Allassani was harshly adjudged to have fouled Falkingham after he fell on the Town skipper on the halfway line. A free-kick was played forward and Aaron Williams got space down the right as Fleet switched off to steer the ball beyond Ashmore with an excellent drive.
Michael Cheek got 17 minutes with Allassani withdrawn but the front players were starved of service, Town goalkeeper James Belshaw – much like his opposite number to be fair – largely a spectator. Weston had a couple of efforts, with one shot curling just wide, but the first effort on target came in the 90th minute and by then it was far too late.
EUFC: Ashmore, Clark, Winfield, Bush, Rance, Adams (Powell 62), Graham (Magri 46), Weston, Allassani (Cheek 73), Whitely, Kedwell. Subs not used: Coulson, Shields
HTFC: Belshaw, Falkingham, Howe, Burrell, Thomson, Emmett (Agnew 87), Leesley, Langmead, Williams, Muldoon (Beck 67), Kitching. Subs not used: Thewlis, Cracknell, Kerry