A much-improved performance yields a point for the Fleet…
A raft of changes did not unsettle the Fleet as they stopped a team who netted six goals on Saturday from scoring once at Stonebridge Road tonight. Out went Will Salmon and Ricky Shakes with Stefan Bailey and Kane Wills coming into midfield while Dean Pooley moved to right back.
And Liam Daish’s side did most of the meaningful running. Kane Wills, making his full debut, drew a save from Dale Roberts on 10 minutes after good build-up and four minutes later Simon Thomas climbed high to head just wide. On 39 minutes, Jordan Collins made room for a great cross from the left that dipped just outside the six-yard box and the onrushing Bailey – who had a good first half – headed over with the goal at his mercy. Magno Vieira sent a shot in the same direction two minutes later as the Fleet probed for an opening.
The visitors finally stamped their authority on the game in the short period before half-time and on 43 minutes came closest to scoring when Matt Pattison set up Mark Byrne and he scooped a shot against the upright as the Fleet scrambled to clear. Lee Tomlin almost got the better of Pooley down the Rushden left minutes later but the Fleet full back recovered well to make a clearance.
The Fleet maintained their slight upper hand in the second half and within two minutes Vieira again tested Roberts but the Diamonds keeper did well to keep the ball out. Yet the visitors were keen to exploit the Fleet on the break and though marshalled superbly by Darius Charles, having perhaps his best game of the season, the yellow shirts threatened briefly on 54 minutes, Tomlin twice getting behind the defence, the second time hoisting a disappointing shot into Cronin’s arms when through on goal.
But by and large the Fleet defence handled the threat well, former Liam Daish target Cliff Akurang growing increasingly peripheral to events and Rushden’s replacement front men making little difference. The same could not be said for Fleet’s first reshuffle, substitute James Lindie climbing on 69 minutes to thump Gavin Heeroo’s long-range cutback against the post with Roberts well beaten.
Referee Whitton was having a decent game, letting the game flow and using the advantage to good effect, turning penalty appeals down from both sides, though his booking of Ishmael Welsh for what seemed little more than a fall in the penalty area seemed harsh. The Fleet continued to press as the game wore on but their final ball lacked the needed finesse to make a difference and the point gained at the final whistle was commendable but disappointing given that the performance merited more.
TEAM: Cronin, Pooley, Collins, Crooks, Charles, Heeroo, Bailey (Forshaw 90), Wills (Shakes 85), Welsh, Thomas (Lindie 58), Vieira. Subs not used: Lamprell, Ginty.