Fleet registered their 10th draw of the season – but only after surviving intense first-half pressure and Preston Edwards saving a penalty (pictured).
Welcoming back Craig Stone and Yado Mambo, Liam Daish must have impressed on his side not to capitulate in the opening few minutes as so often before at Stonebridge Road this season. And the home side were first into the action, Liam Enver-Marum creating space down the left to fire in a shot at goalkeeper Danny Naisbitt. Nathaniel Pinney then fluffed a shot wide as Fleet broke again before Cambridge upped their game and took control.
Luke Berry tested Edwards on 6 minutes but that was only a warm-up as 10 minutes later, former Fleet hero Ashley Carew played Berry in again and Edwards was forced into a good reaction save to keep the shot out. But the visitors’ fluid movement was causing problems for the Fleet who failed to clear their lines effectively. Michael Gash whipped one just wide of the post before more poor defending on 19 minutes allowed Harrison Dunk to get beyond Joe Howe who promptly wrestled him to the ground just inside the box, resulting in a penalty for the men in blue.
With Fleet fans praying for one of those spot kicks of the kind Carew missed in a red shirt last season, he delivered exactly that – a mid-height shot to Edwards’ right that the goalkeeper parried and his defenders eventually cleared.
But the disappointment did little to dampen Cambridge’s spirit and they injected further pace into their game, camping in the Fleet half and bossing midfield with ease. On 27 minutes, Edwards was to the rescue again when a low Tom Shaw drive saw him leap wide and turn the ball just round the post. The Fleet keeper watched another Berry shot fly inches wide of the post before he was in action again, gathering at the feet of Rossi Jarvis as communication at the back went awry.
With the home fans exhorting their side to cross the halfway line, they were rewarded late on as Pinney eventually got some daylight between himself and the Cambridge back line but Enver-Marum’s resulting effort was easy for Naisbitt.
It could only get better for the Fleet after the break and true to the form book, the second half was a much improved affair. Michael West produced a superb ball up the line for Pinney that caught the Cambridge defence flat-footed but the man who has just renewed his loan deal could only find the side netting. And another raking West ball to Enver-Marum almost got to Willock at the far post as the Fleet finally found their range.
Pinney and Howe both registered on target as Fleet stepped things up though at the back they had a brave Mambo interception to thank as Cambridge looked to pick up scraps in the box. And the visitors were by no means out of it, with Gash’s hold-up play allowing Shaw and substitute Jordan Patrick to look for a way through Fleet’s resolute defence. On 75 minutes, Ricky Shakes – on for the injured West – broke at speed for the Fleet but with few options around him, he took the ball on and produced a decent shot that Naisbitt did well to block.