The Fleet can’t break that Histon hoodoo as the Stutes take all three points…
Graham Taylor once famously exclaimed about his dislike of orange. Liam Daish could probably say the same about the village of Histon after the Fleet’s run of defeats at the hands of the Stutes was extended to six Conference games. It was Histon’s third successive single-goal triumph at Stonebridge Road but the surprise here was that neither side managed to score more.
Daish named an unchanged side once again and his preferred XI were straight into the action. Man of the moment Magno Vieira created a chance for himself within two minutes, ghosting through the defence and unleashing a shot that Danny Naisbitt had to parry with Moses Ashikodi’s follow-up blocked.
Two minutes later and the Brazilian was at it again, starting a move just inside the Histon half, exchanging quickfire passes with Ashikodi and shooting just wide of the post. Histon’s chief threat came from Danny Wright and a rather lenient linesman’s interpretation of offside but the Fleet were clearly the better team as their intricate passing and speedy forward movement threatened to unlock the visitors’ defence.
On 10 minutes a Peter Holmes corner caused mayhem in the box and Vieira thrashed a shot from six yards at the goalkeeper as bodies piled in. From the rebound, Darius Charles turned and shot just wide with Naisbitt unsighted.
Vieira saw two more efforts fly over the bar, while Ricky Shakes could have done better with an attempt from the edge of the box as the Fleet pressed. Alex Stavrinou and Stefan Bailey were running midfield and it seemed only a matter of time before the Fleet scored.
But then Histon wrestled the initiative away from the home side with former Dagenham midfielder Glen Southam gradually getting the better of Holmes in the middle. On 27 minutes Lance Cronin was grateful to see Wright’s speculative shot fly just high of the upright and then Histon piled on the pressure with four corners in succession before Michael Frew’s floating cross-cum-shot clipped the crossbar.
Fleet’s one remaining chance of the first half fell to Charles on 43 minutes after good work by Clint Easton but again it was just off-target.
The second half was a more scrappy affair as Fleet’s rhythm became very stop-start and their front men struggled to see much of the ball, and as the game degenerated so too did the referee’s performance. There were strong claims for a penalty when Will Salmon was manhandled by former Fleet defender Adam Tann as he threatened to break into the six-yard box while Matthew Langston’s handball on the hour mark as last man was deemed worthy of only a yellow card, though the original call by the referee may have been harsh.
Bradley Hudson-Odoi also saw yellow after going clean through Salmon in a high challenge and then, on 72 minutes, the referee awarded Histon a free-kick for a dubious challenge from which they opened the scoring. Naisbitt sent the kick downfield to Frew on the Histon left and with two men running clear, Frew got the wrong side of Salmon, whipped a low cross along the six-yard box and Wright had the easiest of touches and plenty of space to guide it past Cronin.
Fleet’s midfield fluency was a distant memory and for 10 minutes after the goal they couldn’t find a red shirt between them. But with Scott Ginty entering the fray on 80 minutes, the Fleet woke up and battered the Histon goal.
First, Vieira and Ginty combined on the edge of the box, with Ginty crashing a shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy. The always-involved Shakes probed effectively down the right and three times sent in good mid-height crosses that had no end result. Vieira burst through two defenders to smash a shot at Naisbitt with five minutes left and then just couldn’t get over Shakes’ cross enough to keep his header at the far post down, while Ashikodi also managed to fashion a shot from under the feet of several Histon players but he too couldn’t keep it low enough.
But the best of the Fleet chances came as the game entered stoppage time and they won two corners. The first saw Vieira eventually get the final touch to a scramble but he fired wide and then from Holmes’ corner there was mayhem inside the visitors’ six-yard box and four Fleet players crashed shots against blue and white shirts on the Histon goalline, one of which was so agonisingly close to crossing the line that many Fleet fans were already in celebration mode.
There was still time for Histon to counterattack and Andrew Tidswell smashed a shot against the Fleet bar as he got clear of Easton and exploited the gaps at the back.
This was by no means a poor Fleet performance and their start and finish were worthy of at least a point in a game where they failed to find the net for the first time in the league since the barren run of autumn ended. But it was the under-par nature of the middle section of the game that allowed a well-organised Histon side to soak up the pressure and then reassert themselves that ultimately cost Fleet another step up the ladder towards safety.
TEAM: Cronin, Salmon, Easton, Crooks, Charles, Stavrinou (Ginty 82), Holmes, Bailey, Shakes (West 89), Vieira, Ashikodi. Subs not used: Heeroo, Pooley, Welsh.