Goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore and his back four earned the plaudits as Fleet shut out Bath City for a first win over the Romans at Stonebridge Road since 2011. Ashmore saved a 49th-minute penalty, his second such stop this season, to preserve the lead that Sam Deering had given the Fleet in the first half.
Daryl McMahon made three changes with Sean Shields, Kenny Clark and Jack Powell starting in place of Jack Connors, Marvin McCoy and the injured Stuart Lewis. The home side made a positive start and both Danny Kedwell and Anthony Cook saw half-chances go begging as Bath were penned into their own half for long periods of the opening exchanges.
Ten minutes in, Fleet thought they’d got off the mark when Jack Powell’s free-kick from the right sailed high over the Bath defence and was met at the far post by Winfield whose powerful header bounced off the bar, down on to the line and away to safety.
Bath didn’t prove to be much of a threat as Fleet dictated the play but Naby Diallo did get round the back from a quickly taken free-kick and his cross into Marvin Morgan was gathered by Ashmore. An uncharacteristic poor ball out of defence then allowed Andy Watkins to slide a decent pass into space behind Fleet’s last man and the home side were fortunate that Ryan Broom timed his run just seconds too late to connect.
Bath were just beginning to get on top of Fleet for a spell and Ashmore, off his line, watched gratefully as a Chas Hemmings effort sailed over him and bounced off target. Then Clark put his body in the way of Watkins’ shot as Fleet’s defence was split with Bath looking dangerous.
With that storm weathered, Fleet took the lead on 26 minutes. The lively Cook put the Bath defence into panic mode with a ball from the right, Kedwell seemed certain to hit the target but got the ball stuck under his feet and it fell for Deering who just about had enough balance to get his shot away and past goalkeeper Max O’Leary, possibly courtesy of a deflection.
The home side could have been two goals to the good five minutes later when Deering found space from the left and delivered for Darren McQueen whose smart header was brilliantly turned aside by a diving O’Leary who had to show quick reactions to deny Fleet’s top scorer.
Fleet were untroubled for the remainder of the first half but within four minutes of the second almost shot themselves in the foot. A hopeful punt forward into space for Watkins didn’t seem to hold much threat but Fleet didn’t clear and the striker ran on to the ball, getting the wrong side of Cook, and the referee was convinced of a push and awarded the penalty. Up stepped Morgan and sent his shot down the middle, Ashmore getting a strong wrist on the ball as he had at Merstham to send it up and away to safety.
McMahon made an early substitution, sending John-Paul Kissock on for Powell who had had a good game up to that point and Fleet began to press a little more going forwards. Deering sent a free-kick curling towards the far post but the bend on it just wasn’t enough to fall left of the upright and Winfield slammed a header into the advertising hoardings on 75 minutes from a corner as Fleet toiled for a second.
Bath sensed an opportunity as they enjoyed territorial advantage in the final 10 minutes but Fleet’s back line was superb, with Mark Phillips winning his share of aerial challenges and Clark and Winfield either side of him keeping Ashmore well protected. Diallo saw a shot tipped inches wide by Ashmore and Fleet survived a chaotic scramble in their box from the resulting corner.
McQueen almost got away on the counter-attack in his last contribution but was scythed down by George Rigg which drew a caution. Ashmore was almost caught out by Broom’s speculative shot from distance but managed to grab hold of the ball at the second attempt.
It was a pensive climax to the game but Fleet could have extended their lead late on when substitute Bradley Bubb was in a chase for the ball with O’Leary inside the box. Forced wide, Bubb cut it back to Deering who took a touch too many and Bath survived.
Bath had one last rally and again Fleet had defenders’ bodies to thank as they threw themselves at the visitors’ attacks and held on for a crucial three points that has now seen McMahon’s side take 16 points from their last 18.
EUFC: Ashmore, Cook, Shields (Connors 89), Phillips, Winfield, Clark, Rance, Deering, Kedwell, McQueen (Bubb 82), Powell (Kissock 58). Subs not used: Jordan, Sheringham
BCFC: O’Leary, Batten, Ball (Hunter 89), Hemmings, Monthe, Artus, Rigg, Diallo, Watkins (McCootie 76), Morgan, Broom. Subs not used: Murphy, Marshall, Hutchinson