Fleet’s pre-season campaign continued with the visit of a second National League side to the Kuflink Stadium as Aldershot Town provided a useful test on a warm September afternoon.
Dennis Kutrieb went with two almost entirely different sides in each half in what proved to be a competitive encounter, the final scoreline – aided by a penalty – not reflecting the home side’s tidy passing game and unfortunate effort that bounced back off the post.
With a new trialist appearing at right-back in the first-half and another playing the final 25 minutes at centre-back, the Fleet boss also got the chance to get some vital minutes out of the likes of Bobby-Joe Taylor, Iffy Allen, Rakish Bingham, Will Wood and Michael West, all of whom had missed a couple of the friendly games.
Aldershot fielded a strong lineup that included new signing Josh Rees, formerly of Gillingham and Bromley, plus Alex Finney and strikers Chike Kandi and Mo Bettamer.
The Shots had an early chance with an effort curled just past the upright and a header from a corner that went close. And they led on 10 minutes, Rees just getting enough on a ball in midfield to spread play wide, a pass back into the middle tucked tidily away by the visitors’ No.22.
Bettamer sent a first-time effort over Tom Hadler’s bar before Aldershot were given the opportunity to increase their lead on 13 minutes, Fleet’s trialist leaving his leg in on the Shots’ goalscorer and he went tumbling.
Home protests fell on deaf ears and though Hadler guessed the right way, Bettamer’s penalty was well struck and out of his reach.
Bingham was just over with Fleet’s first real opportunity on 23 minutes when Lee Martin did well to get a low cross into the box and the striker billowed the side netting with a neat turn and shot from Allen’s delivery five minutes later.
Fleet had just begun to see more of the Shots’ goal when the visitors struck for a third time. Adam Mekki blocked an initial shot in the area but Aldershot recycled their attack and a looping ball to the far post was fed into the six-yard box where Rees reacted quickest to stoop and nod past Hadler for 3-0.
Alfie Egan had a low effort blocked, while at the other end Aldershot saw an effort on the break roll agonisingly wide of the far post. Allen’s mazy run showed promise but came to nothing on the stroke of half-time as the Shots ran in to the changing room with the lead.
Only Kahraman reappeared for the second-half as 10 players entered the fray following the break, Josh Payne taking over the skipper’s armband from Martin.
And Fleet showed more of their passing game almost immediately when Payne’s long ball to Greg Cundle was quickly forwarded by Tobi Adebayo-Rowling’s whose low cross had to be dealt with by the Shots defence.
Moments later, Wood on the overlap opened up the Shots and he found Reece Grant whose effort slid just past the foot of the post.
Fleet continued in the ascendancy and should have been rewarded with a goal for their best move of the game on 53 minutes. Payne and Cundle showed good understanding with another crisp passing move and Grant did ever so well to outfox his marker, create space for a shot, his effort dragging Mitch Walker out of position and slamming back off the foot of the post and back out along the line.
Aldershot still posed a threat, however, and Holmes stood up very well to a close-range effort and then had Jake Goodman to thank for a clearance in a follow-up move.
Ben Chapman was unfortunate not to continue his run of goalscoring form at home on the hour mark, firing Adebayo-Rowling’s centre just off target.
Payne continued to impress in midfield with a range of passing against his former club but there were few further opportunities created by either side as the warm temperature continued to hold up.
Cundle and Chapman combined well to deliver half a chance for James Dobson and the two of them were at it again on 77 minutes, swift one-touch football releasing Cundle to cross for Chapman whose lunge wasn’t far off.
Goodman threw himself in the way of Aldershot’s last chance nine minutes from the end and the final moments became largely entrenched in midfield as the two sides could not break a scoreless second period.
Kutrieb’s squad will go back to the training ground now before their next series of behind-closed-doors games and the manager will take plenty of analysis from his team’s fourth friendly of this late summer.
EUFC 1st Half: Hadler, Trialist No.23, Frempah, Kahraman, Taylor, Paxman, Egan, Allen, Mekki, Martin, Bingham.
EUFC 2nd Half: Holmes, Adebayo-Rowling, Wood, Goodman, Kahraman (Trialist No.13, 65), Payne, Chapman, Dobson, West, Cundle, Grant.