Points were the order of the day at the Kuflink Stadium this week but Fleet were yet again left empty-handed as Maidenhead made off with a win on a rain-soaked afternoon.
Kevin Watson’s first game in charge showed plenty of promise as Fleet played good football from the start and enjoyed the bulk of possession but it was poor defending from a corner that ended supporters’ optimism as the visitors clawed their way back into the game.
Albie Morgan was one of two debutants as late signing Marvel Ekpiteta took up a full-back position. Andre Blackman also made his full debut after appearing from the bench on Tuesday night.
And it was Charlton loanee Morgan who caught the eye in a first-half he dominated, linking up well with Josh Payne, always looking to get on the ball, always finding a red shirt and quick to make those passes from his own half.
Fleet played a passing game that Maidenhead struggled to disrupt in the opening 25 minutes.
And the game was only four minutes old when Morgan showed what he could do, his weighted pass releasing Josh Umerah down the right who crossed towards the far post but it skipped beyond Gozie Ugwu.
Fleet won three corners in succession before 10 minutes were up and Maidenhead were stretched when Lawrie Wilson’s neat pass into Myles Weston was back-heeled into Umerah’s path but with Ugwu pressing, Alan Massey managed to clear the Magpies’ lines.
Morgan unleashed another attack on the quarter-hour mark as the Fleet broke quickly with some pleasing one-touch passing and Umerah cut in from the right before bending a shot just wide of the foot of the post.
And the home side deservedly took the lead on 19 minutes when Morgan played a lovely first-time pass out to the left wing. Under pressure from Blackman, defender Seth Twumasi underhit his pass back to goalkeeper Chris Dunn and Umerah pounced, playing it beyond Dunn at the second attempt before burying an effort.
Had Fleet held the lead for longer, perhaps they could have built on it but typical of this season, Maidenhead had plenty of good fortune as they responded immediately. Danny Whitehall lined up a free-kick and his effort deflected off the Fleet wall to bounce away from the stranded Holmes and over the line.
That rather deflated the building atmosphere and Maidenhead gradually took the sting out of the game. They might even have snatched the lead on 32 minutes when a corner was recycled to the far side and with Whitehall allowed to shoot on goal, Josh Kelly turned his close-range effort on to the crossbar.
There was a chance each for either side before the break as the lurking Morgan almost capitalised on Dunn going walkabout inside his area with the ball. Then two minutes from the break, Payne’s pass was pounced on in midfield and Kelly was set free to run through on goal. Holmes was swiftly off his line and he played the ball but Kelly went flying in a bid to convince the referee and claim a spot kick. Mr Durkin waved that one away.
Maidenhead made the better start to the second-half and Ryan Upward was afforded space to send an effort just wide.
At the other end, Morgan’s confident ball play continued, the midfielder dropping his shoulder and running into space to let fly with an effort just wide.
Whitehall got a lucky shot away with Homes off his line but that drifted off target before Morgan again embarked on a mesmerising run from his central midfield position, into and across the box but he just couldn’t find space for a shot. Instead, he floated an inviting cross into the six-yard area that Dunn managed to claw away with Weston and Ugwu incoming.
Fleet were starting to build a head of steam again in midfield from the 65-minute mark and a 20-pass build-up ended with Payne’s shot deflected, which took some of the power out of it and allowed Dunn to push away.
Weston then sprung forward of the Magpies back line on to a quick pass from midfield but seemed to be clipped as he threatened to race in behind but the referee didn’t deem that worthy of a foul either. And he was further unmoved by Maidenhead’s claim for a penalty at the other end, waving away a challenge by Tyler Cordner on Whitehall.
Fleet went to three at the back by bringing Ayo Obileye on but Maidenhead got their noses in front 13 minutes from the end. Jack King did well to get a block on Whitehall’s shot from 12 yards but from the resulting Josh Smile corner, Upward had time and space to get his head on it and power home the winner.
Fleet were clearly dispirited by that and Maidenhead defended well outside their box as the home side tried to drag themselves back into it but there was little left to work Dunn in the visitors’ goal.
EUFC: Holmes, Ekpiteta (Obileye 73), Blackman, Cordner, King, Payne, Morgan, Wilson (Sutherland 82), Weston, Ugwu, Umerah (Adeloye 77). Subs not used: Egan, Palmer
MUFC: Dunn, Twumasi, Steer, Ellul, Massey, Sheckleford (Cassidy 73), Clerima, Upward, Smile (Mensah 90), Whitehall, Kelly (Akintunde 86). Subs not used: Ashby-Hammond, Grant.