Fleet 1-0 Weymouth



Report by Ed Miller

The Fleet moved back into the top half of the table
following this afternoon?s morale-boosting victory over Weymouth as George
Purcell?s first league goal of the season proved enough to bag the three

Liam Daish said that the midweek victory over Stevenage had
given him food for thought about his selection and he was as good as his word
with four changes from last week?s defeat at Cambridge. Danny Slatter slotted
in at right back and Dean Pooley into the centre of defence with Mark Ricketts
and James Smith making way. Jamie Hand got the nod ahead of Craig Stone and
Purcell was selected to partner Michael Gash up front.

The opening 20 minutes were scrappy with neither side getting
the ball down enough to thread together a meaningful attack and the Fleet?s two
half-chances fell to players outside the box with first Neil Barrett and then
Luke Moore skidding shots from distance wide of the post. Weymouth sought to
use Chris McPhee?s intelligent running down their right wing to release Stuart
Beavon and Pierre Joseph-Dubois through the middle and the former Fleet star
was soon reacquainted with Sacha Opinel as the pair wasted no time over
pleasantries. There was little love lost between the sides and the visiting
skipper Anton Robinson was putting himself about at the heart of some robust
midfield challenges.

But the goal that was to prove the winner galvanised the
Fleet into more meaningful action and it arrived on 23 minutes. Danny Slatter?s
desire to get forward saw him intercept a wayward Weymouth pass and he advanced
down the right. After a good interchange with Moore, he found room in the
corner to send in a cross towards Barrett but Weymouth defenders Cameron Mawer
and Scott Doe got in a tangle and the ball fell for Purcell to lash home a
volley from just inside the penalty area that rippled the net and the Fleet
were in front.

The Fleet picked up the pace and Stacy Long was at the heart
of things, hitting through balls for Purcell and Gash, his subtle lob over the
defence on 35 minutes for Gash the pick of the bunch but the Fleet striker?s
shot was scrambled away by goalkeeper Danny Knowles. Yet it was a Fleet attack
that almost proved their undoing on 42 minutes when Long?s set piece was
scrambled upfield. Charles and Opinel made a hash of the attempted clearance
and suddenly Beavon and two of his teammates were through on goal. With only
Lance Cronin to beat, and perhaps affected by the fact his name was spelt wrong
on the back of his shirt, Beavon attempted to lift it over the goalkeeper but
Cronin got down smartly to smother the ball.

After the break the Fleet were much the same, their tails up,
with Long, Moore and Purcell combining well and running off the ball to offer
so many more options than has been the case in recent games. Long took the
first of seven potshots on 54 minutes that curled wide of the upright and at
the other end Cronin had to be alert to a dipping high ball from substitute
Ryan Williams. Long then had another three efforts as he buzzed around the edge
of the box making things happen and ? presumably tired of his high, long-range
efforts ? attempted a more audacious chip over a stranded Knowles but this
again crept wide.

In between the Long display, Purcell had an effort minutes
when he twisted and turned inside three defenders and shot over, while Moore?s
65th minute effort had a similar result. With all the Fleet?s
admirable efforts coming to nothing in search of a second goal, it was no
surprise when Weymouth started to get more involved. Williams was making good
progress down the wing and McPhee still looked a danger and was by some way the
best player in a Weymouth shirt.

Beavon forced Cronin into a smart stop on 70 minutes but the
turning point came six minutes later when Charles received treatment following
a clash with McPhee. The Fleet defender soldiered on but he was reduced to hobbling
and it unsettled the defenders around him with Weymouth looking likely to break
away and score. It took some minutes for Mark Ricketts to replace him and the
Fleet?s concentration seemed to disappear with him as the Terras upped the
ante. On 82 minutes, McPhee slipped between Ricketts and Pooley to turn an Adam
Bygrave shot just wide of the post from close range.

But back came the Fleet and substitute Craig Stone began a
move that saw Purcell skip between three defenders and release Hand, but the
midfielder?s shot was saved. Knowles parried another Long effort on 87 minutes
and two minutes later Stone broke down the right and advanced past the last
defender before loosing off a decent shot that Knowles tipped over the bar onto
the netting.

It was the last act of note as Fleet held out during four
minutes of time added on for a well-won three points. Daish?s men should probably
have wrapped things up sooner, and could have been punished for showing
Weymouth such mercy, but the displays of Long and Purcell in particular will
have given the majority of the 1,005 fans inside Stonebridge Road a warm glow.
Add to that the sixth clean sheet at home in succession and things are looking
up as we approach the crucial Christmas period.

TEAM: Cronin, Slatter, Opinel, Pooley, Charles (Ricketts 78), Hand, Barrett (Stone 83), Long, Moore, Purcell, Gash. Subs not used: French, Shakes, Ibe.
Att: 1,005


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Ed Miller

Ed Miller

Ed Miller has been Ebbsfleet United's communications manager and programme editor since 2014 and responsible for the club website since 2007. Contact him on ed.miller@eufc.co.uk

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