Fleet signed off pre-season with a narrow defeat at home to League One’s AFC Wimbledon as Daryl McMahon kept faith with the eleven who drew with Southend United last weekend. That meant that Sam Magri again occupied a central defensive berth as Kenny Clark sat things out with an injury, alongside Dean Rance.
The Dons fielded a strong side despite having played at Aldershot Town last night, and they included new signing Cody McDonald as well as former Gillingham skipper Barry Fuller and Millwall midfielder Jimmy Abdou, on a season-long loan.
And the visitors were quickly into their stride, taking the game into the Fleet half and forcing several early set pieces. Nathan Ashmore was out well to get to a through ball ahead of McDonald while Egli Kaja’s pass saw Andy Barcham only denied by a deflection.
Callum Kennedy’s cross caused some consternation on 23 minutes and Barcham again saw a header flash wide as Fleet worked hard to keep the yellow shirts at bay.
Once again in this most unseasonal of summer preparations, the rain played its part in affecting the game and the Dons became a little bogged down as the half progressed. Jack Powell saw a free-kick slowed down by the wall while Paul Kalmabayi got in between Darren McQueen and Danny Mills as Fleet sought to make some headway up front.
The visitors had one last chance before the half-time whistle, a corner to the far post seeing Fuller head over while in plenty of space.
Fleet deployed Andy Drury, Danny Kedwell and Bagasan Graham early in the second half, with Luke Coulson moving to full-back after Jack Connors was removed as a precaution following a slight knock.
But with Fleet just starting to find some fluency, a handball in the box presented the Dons with a chance to take the lead from the penalty spot. They’d reckoned without Ashmore, however, who made a fine save from McDonald’s kick, a strong arm enough to divert the ball high and away to safety.
The Fleet keeper could do nothing to stop the visitors with their next chance, four minutes later. After a free-kick was diverted behind for a corner, the resulting cross was neatly blasted home by skipper Fuller to give his side a 1-0 lead.
The joy amongst the travelling contingent was short-lived, however, after Myles Weston was felled on the edge of the box by Deji Oshilaja. That was all the encouragement Powell needed to get in some free-kick practice for the season ahead and the midfielder curled a superb effort around the wall to beat George Long.
Fleet had a couple of chances to take the advantage after that, with Coulson feeding Drury with a neat pass that was fired just wide. McQueen then showed swift feet to manouevre Powell’s delivery into space for a shot that Long did very well to nudge over the bar.
The game could have gone either way at that stage but it was the Dons who scored what was to prove the crucial goal on 69 minutes when the impressive Barcham launched a decent drive that nestled in the top corner.
Substitute Osaze Urhoghide then fired over Ashmore’s bar from inside the box and the Fleet keeper made another smart stop before his opposite number did the same from another well-aimed Powell free-kick eight minutes from time. There was some grumbling from the Plough End as two penalty shouts were blisfully ignored by the referee who then brought the curtain down on Fleet’s pre-season programme with Saturday’s trip to Guiseley eagerly awaited by the home contingent.
EUFC: Ashmore, McCoy (Drury 46), Connors (Graham 47), Winfield, Magri, Powell, Payne, Coulson, Weston (Mambo 71), Mills (Kedwell 46), McQueen (McLean 76). Subs not used: Miles, Cook, Shields.
AFCW: Long, Fuller, Kennedy, Oshilaja (Urhoghide 69), Kalambayi, Francomb, Abdou, McDonald, Egan, Barcham, Kaja. Subs not used: Tranev, Ashley, Evans