Fleet’s appearance on the football pools this afternoon was probably guaranteed to produce another draw for the Stonebridge Road faithful as Bath defender Will Salmon returned to rob his old side of three points.
Stacy Long replaced Dean Rance in the starting line-up while Michael Corcoran returned in place of Michael Thalassisits, away on international duty.
It was a slow start from both sides, though Bath looked positive in the early exchanges, seeking to use Ross Stearn’s width to get in behind the Fleet back four.
Fleet’s midfield continually teased and looked for the breakthrough, with Anthony Cook’s runs from wide threatening to unlock the Bath rearguard. Stacy Long almost benefitted from a dreadful lapse of concentration from Bath’s Dan Ball as he failed to clear his lines and Long stabbed the ball goalwards from close range but the goalkeeper was prepared.
Cook’s interchanges with Billy Bricknell supplied Fleet’s best moments of the opening period and the pair exchanged passes that saw Cook race through the middle but he stumbled as he looked to convert the ball.
Fleet took the lead not long after that, on 25 minutes, when Daryl McMahon floated a free-kick from 35 yards and Shane Huke – for the second game in succession – rose highest to direct a header past Jason Mellor.
That goal drove Fleet on and they had their best period of the game. Bricknell rasped a shot from 25 yards that stung Mellor’s hands and from the corner, Corcoran curled a shot just past the upright. Bricknell and Cook then combined again, the former’s pass outwitting the Bath defence but Cook’s shot was driven low and just off target.
Fleet looked to build on that late first-half improvement in the second, but the game failed to liven up. A fairly insipid opening period saw Bath start to gain more of a foothold without ever threatening Preston Edwards, though a Stearn free-kick was headed narrowly wide as Fleet failed to up the tempo.
Rance replaced Long on 67 minutes but shortly after that, the visitors equalised. A clash between Chris Allen and Joe Howe saw both go down and the referee pull play back. He awarded Bath a free kick as a result and from that, Fleet failed to clear and Salmon was on hand to fire the ball over the line for the first goal of his senior career.
Goalkeeper Mellor just gathered from Osborn immediately after the kick-off but that was Osborn’s last contribution, as Green replaced him on 76 minutes. And Mellor rescued Bath again late on when Cook shrugged off the attentions of the visitors’ defence but as he bore down on goal, Mellor got in his way.
Fleet couldn’t force a winner in the closing stages as the Stonebridge Road faithful were made to wait for their first taste of victory at home.
TEAM: Edwards, Howe, Palmer, Corcoran, Lorraine, Huke, Osborn (Green 76), Long (Rance 67), Cook, Bricknell, McMahon. Subs not used: Hall, Sankofa, Phipp.