Fleet 1-0 Barrow



Report by Ed Miller

The law of averages must surely allow for last-minute goals from the Fleet every so often and so it proved as Neil Barrett struck in the 92nd minute of play to end his side’s awful run of six games without a win. It was the icing on the cake of a game that the home side never looked likely to lose but at the same seemed to be struggling to win.

Liam Daish reintroduced Luke Moore to the starting 11 and he tucked in centrally just behind Michael Gash and George Purcell in a 4-3-1-2 formation. It meant no place in the starting line-up for the unfortunate Kezie Ibe, while new signing Karl Murray came into the middle to replace the suspended Jamie Hand.

The first half was almost entirely devoid of interest as Barrow showed little desire to attack while the Fleet’s forays were typically feisty but lacked any sort of cutting edge. Barrow’s assistant manager, 40-year-old Darren Sheridan, was teaching his younger opposite numbers a lesson in breaking up play and Craig Stone and Neil Barrett struggled to get going to supply the forwards. Loanee Karl Murray tucked into the middle as if he had been playing there all season and generally had a fine game with distribution along the ground and he showed an eye for a decent crossfield pass.

Barrow had the first real opportunity on 23 minutes when former Southport man Paul Tait stole in ahead of Sacha Opinel inside the box but he loosed off a shot that failed to trouble Cronin. The Fleet saved their best moments for the final 10 minutes of the game and Barrett should have done better when he met Mark Ricketts’ deep cross from the right corner but the Fleet skipper couldn’t jump high enough and headed over from inside the six-yard box.

Gash also put a header over and Moore just failed to connect from 12 yards after good work by Purcell down the left looked like it might carve open the visitors’ resolute defence.

The second 45 minutes saw a more authoritative performance from the Fleet and they could have led inside the first minutes when Gash clipped a low shot along the ground that goalkeeper Tim Deasy – on at half time for Alan Martin – fumbled as Purcell stretched to reach.

Barrow’s attacking forays of the second half were getting fewer and far between as Opinel clamped down on the useful Carlos Logan and awkward striker Richard Brodie found himself second best every time against man-of-the-match Darius Charles.

Murray had a shot on target on 58 minutes and four minutes later Moore started and finished a move that saw him surge the length of the pitch and eventually attempt to curl a shot around the Barrow defence that went wide. With Stacy Long on for Craig Stone, the Fleet showed an extra dimension and Long forced Deasy into a superb save as he met Barrett’s cross first time and unleashed a mid-height drive that flashed across goal.

Kezie Ibe’s introduction for Michael Gash on 73 minutes was met with indignant fury by sections of the Fleet crowd who felt the substitution to be the wrong one but they were almost silenced when James Smith thundered a shot through several legs which crashed against the near post and bounced to safety to the groans of a thousand people.

On 87 minutes, Barrow’s sole opportunity of the second half saw a break through Logan and he crossed for Ashley Winn but Cronin was equal to the resulting shot.

And just as a disappointed crowd headed for the exit, the Fleet created a final opening. With his back to goal, Moore combined with Long to spread the play wide to Opinel down the left. The Frenchman advanced almost to the byeline and whipped in a cross that Barrett met at the far post and his fine shot hit the bottom corner of the net to the jubilation of the Fleet following. While Barrow may have felt hard done by, Fleet fans – having seen numerous late goals in that very corner of the pitch – were delighted to end their terrible league run.

This was by no means a vintage Fleet performance and though the ball was on the ground for much of the time, Murray providing a useful conduit in midfield, it seemed the same old story of possession but no end product. That was until Captain Fantastic snatched victory deep into stoppage time.

TEAM: Cronin, Ricketts (Slatter 83), Smith, Charles, Opinel, Murray, Barrett, Stone (Long 55), Purcell, Gash (Ibe 73), Moore. Subs Not Used: Mott, Pooley.
Att: 1,187


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