Fleet surrendered an early lead as Alfreton Town all but ensured their own survival with a deserved 2-1 victory at Stonebridge Road.
There was one change to the Fleet side, Ram Marwa returning to the starting line-up meaning Liam Bellamy dropped to the bench. After a bright opening, there looked to be plenty of goals in the match and Neil Barrett’s header from Ricky Shakes’ cross on four minutes was kept out by on-loan Burnley goalkeeper Jon Stewart.
Almost immediately a confident Alfreton, on a good recent run of form, were on the attack and dangerman Nathan Arnold broke free of the Fleet defence but Lance Cronin was down well to deny him a goal. The frenetic opening didn’t let up as Fleet stormed up the other end to take the lead on six minutes. Gozie Ugwu won the ball on the halfway line and released Liam Enver-Marum who sprinted clear and atoned for his miss against Kettering as he shaped himself and fired past Stewart with aplomb.
Ugwu and Enver-Marum were at it again five minutes later when the latter had another effort on target, this time held by Stewart as Fleet enjoyed their best spell. Alfreton were increasingly frustrated as the half wore on and the home side just fell short of adding a second when fine work by Shakes and Craig Stone down the right saw a looping cross reach Barrett but he was unbalanced and fired over from close range.
But Fleet’s good showing began to abate from the half-hour as Alfreton started to gain control of midfield. And they were back in the game on 35 minutes when a Josh Law corner to the near post was nodded home through a crowd of players by Adam Cunnington.
With Fleet relinquishing territory as the half wore on, they then relinquished parity within two minutes of the restart. Josh Law wrestled free of Enver-Marum’s attentions on the edge of the box and as Fleet players dawdled to shut him down, he cut inside and curled a fine shot out of Cronin’s reach.
Thereafter Alfreton seemed first to every header and loose ball in the final third as Fleet struggled to find any sort of passing game. Calum Willock was introduced on 65 minutes as Liam Daish sought to add fresh legs and ideas, while the hard-running Bellamy replaced Shakes a few minutes later.
But the visitors almost made it 3-1 on 72 minutes when Cunnington shrugged off Paul Lorraine and hit a low, bobbling shot that beat Cronin but rolled just past the post and the same player was off target in the closing minutes as a corner fell to him eight yards out.
Fleet saved the best, if you could call it that, for last as they fashioned two fine chances in time added on. First, substitute Nathaniel Pinney beat defender Connor Franklin all ends up and cut into the box from the byline but finding little support he flashed a shot right across goal with Stewart a spectator.
And then with virtually the final kick of the match, West sent in a free-kick that Ugwu diverted onto Willock’s header and his back flick was just gathered by Stewart before the final whistle signalled Alfreton celebrations.
TEAM: Cronin, Stone, Howe, Lorraine, Smith, Marwa, West, Barrett (Bellamy 69), Shakes (Pinney 77), Enver-Marum (Willock 65), Ugwu. Subs not used: McNeil, Phipp.
Ricky Shakes won man of the match v Kettering. Vote for tonight’s using drop-down menu above.