Fleet were left frustrated after a dominant first half produced only one goal – which didn’t prove enough to yield more than a point as unbeaten Maidenhead left Stonebridge Road with a draw.
Fleet made one change to Saturday’s line-up, Alex Osborn starting his first game in place of Billy Bricknell – while Ben May pulled up in the pre-match warm-up and was replaced in the squad by Tom Phipp. The home side looked keen to get into gear from the kick-off and Anthony Cook was straight into the action, winning a free kick off Bobby Bezhadi and then planting it straight onto Michael Thalassitis’ head in the six-yard box who dived and saw it deflected just wide of the post.
Fleet were completely dominant in the opening period, with Osborn in particular busy and industrious. He exchanged a clever one-two with Thalassitis 40 yards out and ran through on goal but Elvijs Putnins spread himself and managed to force the ball behind for a corner.
But the goalkeeper turned villain on 10 minutes when Osborn harried him as he went to deal with a wayward shot, Thalassitis ran through and Putnins quite unnecessarily tripped him out wide. The big Fleet No.9 dusted himself down to despatch the penalty for his second goal of the season.
The goal seemed only to encourage the Fleet as they played their most fluid football of the season to date and Maidenhead were restricted to punting the ball out wide or up high to Richard Pacquette. The only incident of note at the Fleet end was Preston Edwards getting booked for handling outside his area, a somewhat harsh decision given it was momentum more than deliberation that carried him over the line.
Osborn continued to harry and close down the Maidenhead back line, with Thalassitis’ making his presence felt and both strikers let fly with efforts that were just off target, while Shane Huke was only inches away from converting an Anthony Cook cross. But Fleet stepped off the gas around the 35-minute mark and while they still dominated possession, the visitors looked less likely to concede a second.
Indeed they equalised on 42 minutes when Reece Tison-Lascaris benefitted from a stroke of fortune as the ball bounced kindly for him in between two Fleet defenders, but there was nothing lucky about his shot which was well-taken and clinical, slotting beneath Edwards and over the line.
Veteran Conference Premier striker Michael Malcolm came on for the second half and he almost put the visitors ahead on 47 minutes when Danny Green robbed Aiden Palmer down the Fleet left and swung a cross over to Malcolm who bent a shot over the bar with the goal gaping, though in fairness it wasn’t an easy cross to convert.
Fleet lost Joe Howe to injury five minutes later and continued to enjoy the bulk of possession, though chances were less clear cut. However, Thalassitis was unfortunate that his first touch deserted him on 60 minutes when put through by Cook. The only other chance of note for the Fleet was a free-kick from Cook that saw Putnins flying across his goal to gather – but whether the goalkeeper’s dramatic dive had more to do with the “Ooohs” from the Plough End was open to discussion on the terraces.
Maidenhead seemed content with the point and went for a five-man back line when Tison-Lascaris was forced off with an injury. Pacquette did head over the bar for them and Danny Green saw a shot hacked away from the six-yard box, but home fans were more concerned with what was happening at the other end. The introduction of Bricknell and Phipp couldn’t coax a winning goal and the Fleet travel next to Dorchester in the hope of gaining those elusive three points.
TEAM: Edwards, Howe (Sankofa 52), Palmer, Rance, Lorraine, Huke, Green, McMahon, Thalassitis (Bricknell 71), Osborn (Phipp 82), Cook. Subs not used: Hall, Long.