There was a little bit of history repeating, but thankfully not too much, as Fleet overcame a Maidenhead side reduced to nine men by two sendings-off. Just as in 2010, the Magpies battled with only eight outfield players but on this occasion could not record any points.
And it was Adam Cunnington’s super-fast goal inside the first minute that gave Fleet a back-to-back win for the first time since October and kept them in touch with the play-off spots.
Jamie Day named an unchanged side after Danny Kedwell wasn’t deemed fit in time but he could boast a more attacking bench with the return of Tyrone Marsh. However, his leading scorer got the Fleet off to the perfect start with one of the earliest goals Stonebridge Road can remember as Adam Cunnington latched on to a forward ball before Maidenhead had settled and produced an almost casual, but brilliant, rising shot that cleared Ashley Timms in the visitors’ goal and hit the back of the net.
Hopes were high to build on that beginning but Maidenhead refused to buckle and they were quickly on the front foot, the bustling Adrian Clifton putting himself about up front. Neither goalkeeper was troubled, however, for much of the first half, with Maidenhead’s attacking forays mopped up well by the Fleet defence and Tom Bonner outjumping centre forward Charlie Strutton every time in the air.
Hall did have to be alert to a 15th-minute effort from Clifton, however, who cracked a shot from a through ball that the Fleet goalkeeper parried to his right, while top scorer Dave Tarpey saw one whistle just wide.
Fleet created little of consequence though Sean Shields managed a few deliveries into the penalty area and was only inches from getting a header on target as Matt Godden’s cross just eluded him on the edge of the six-yard box. The referee gave a hint of what was to follow when Matt Fish went into the book for a fairly run-of-the-mill challenge and Ben Jefford followed him with a rather more weighty clattering of De’Reece Vanderhyde on the halfway line.
The second half seemed determined to continue to in the same vein and Jamie Day must have seen enough as he made his three substitutions fairly early. The first, on 55 minutes, saw Theo Lewis on for Matt Johnson and moments before that his namesake Stuart had started and ended a move that saw him slice a shot at Timms from close range.
The visitors began to play the better football with some neat interchanges in the final third but they couldn’t break down a resolute Fleet defence. The home side should really have grabbed a second on 65 minutes, however, when Godden delivered a low cross, Theo Lewis dummied it for Cunnington but the ball rather stuck under his feet and he couldn’t direct his shot.
And three minutes later Cunnington had another chance as Osborn laid a pass into his path but it just ran too far and Timms was down to save at the striker’s feet.
Maidenhead’s challenge was dealt a blow in the 71st minute when substitute Tyrone Marsh advanced 30 yards from goal but but as he was looking to get a pass away, the delay invited a challenge from the visitors’ skipper Mark Nisbet and though it was a foul, most Fleet fans felt even a yellow might have been harsh but the referee issued a straight red.
Fleet didn’t carve out too many opportunities after that, though six minutes later they were guilty of overplaying their approach, with Osborn passing to Marsh when he might have been better shooting and Marsh then slipped while aiming for goal.
The Magpies then saw their number reduced to nine on 83 minutes when Vanderhyde bundled into Lewis and he simply couldn’t believe it when the referee produced a second yellow card. There was no onslaught on the Maidenhead goal, however, and full credit to the luckless visitors as they made two tactical substitutions and continued to press the Fleet who seemed content to play out time.
Four minutes of time added on were played and Fleet fans were grateful for the final whistle – though with results elsewhere of reasonable use, and Fleet picking up six points from six, the manner of this win should be swiftly overlooked in favour of the points gained.
TEAM: Hall, Fish, Jefford, Rance, Langmead, Bonner, Godden (Marsh 66), Johnson (T Lewis 55), S Lewis, Cunnington, Shields (Osborn 59). Subs not used: Edwards, Acheampong