Fleet’s season failed to spark against National League new boys Yeovil Town as the visitors scored their three goals at key moments, knocking Garry Hill’s side out of any impetus they had gathered in a painful night for home fans.
There was one change for the Fleet as Alex Lawless sat this one out with a hamstring issue and that meant a recall for Myles Weston. Yeovil’s new signing, Lawless’ former teammate at Leyton Orient Charlie Lee, was on the bench.
With the home side eager to kick-start their season as many felt they might with 11 v 11 at the Kuflink Stadium, there was a guarded sense of optimism and initially it carried over on to the pitch with Fleet more than holding their own.
John Goddard swung an early free-kick into the box after being poleaxed by Craig Alcock and Jamie Grimes wasn’t far off as he lunged as the ball dropped invitingly.
When he got the ball, Josh Umerah showed good balance and skills and his eighth minute turn and low shot across the face of goal just skipped beyond Goddard who was following up.
Yeovil had to wait until the 13th minute to get a meaningful sight of goal when Ayo Obileye’s errant pass found only Courtney Duffus and his thumping shot had Nathan Ashmore at full stretch as it ran wide.
Fleet continued to play on the front foot and Weston tricked his way along the 30-yard mark before cutting inside and firing a good low shot that wasn’t far off target.
On 19 minutes, Umerah muscled his way past Tom Bradbury before the defender got a foot in and the ball was returned to Gozie Ugwu at the far post whose header was turned behind for a corner.
Undaunted, Umerah had another effort on target that Nelson turned over the bar before Goddard swept upfield on a counterattack and found Weston with a searching cross, Fleet’s No.11 diving to make a connection.
But just as Fleet were looking to gain the upper hand, the visitors struck. There was more than a hint of climbing on Jack King as Bradbury struck on 27 minutes, his shot turned in by Rhys Murphy who angled it into the bottom corner, away from Ashmore’s grasp.
The goalscorer lasted only three minutes more before injury forced him off, to be replaced by Birmingham City loanee Remeao Hutton.
Fleet’s only response was an Obileye header that lacked power while Umerah’s snapshot bounced free for Goddard to hit wide.
At the other end, Ashmore’s kick out landed at the feet of Lawson D’Ath and the midfielder tried his luck with a cheeky lob but the Fleet keeper was back in time to gather.
Yeovil lost skipper Lee Collins to injury for the second-half but they refused to let any doubts creep into their game by establishing a two-goal lead inside three minutes of the restart.
An attack down the Fleet left showed few signs of danger but the home side were exposed on the right as a Tom Whelan cross landed for the well-positioned Hutton to cut inside and drill an accurate shot between Ashmore and his post.
With two goals to pull back, Fleet looked shorn of all ideas and a scrappy second half ensued, punctuated by a few moments of hope for the home side but little more than that.
The home fans appealed for a penalty as Goddard was shoved on the edge of the box on 66 minutes as frustrations were answered with a couple of yellow cards for Aswad Thomas and Umerah.
The latter was replaced by Brandon Thomas-Asante with 20 minutes to go and seconds later Ugwu was played in by Weston and shot low across goal, Sean Shields arriving just moments too late to convert.
That marked the home side’s best spell of the second half and Ball thudded a subtle pass from Weston just past the upright from 20 yards. The former Stevenage midfielder was inches away from a chipped delivery into the box a minute later but it wasn’t Fleet’s night as luck evaded them.
There was brief hope of a revival 12 minutes from time when Thomas guided home his second goal in three games from a Goddard set piece but with the home support in good voice, they were silenced by a third Yeovil strike.
That came three minutes after Fleet’s and it was a clinical finish, Myles Hippolyte wrong-footing the defence with a neat pass and Whelan opened up his body and fired into the far corner for 3-1.
Fleet could have scored a second in the six minutes of time added on. Ugwu was not far off Weston’s delivery into the six-yard box, Thomas-Asante glanced a header just wide from Shields’ cross and then the ball was cleared off the line four times as home players queued up to take shots, with more than a suspicion of handball on one of those blocks. But the game had long finished as a contest by that point.
EUFC: Ashmore, Wilson (Shields 55), Thomas, Grimes, King, Obileye, Ball, Weston, Goddard, Umerah (Thomas-Asante 70), Ugwu. Subs not used: Egan, N’Gala, Palmer
YTFC: Nelson, Alcock, Collins (Dickinson 46), Bradbury, Whelan, Worthington, D’Ath (Lee 77), Hippolyte, Skendi, Duffus, Murphy (Hutton 30). Subs not used: Seager, Brzozenski