Calum Willock gets off the mark but Gillingham scrape a win at Stonebridge Road…
Fleet fans got their first look at their new-look side in home surroundings and were impressed by what they saw as Liam Daish’s men could count themselves unlucky to finish as losers.
A relatively strong Gillingham side included ex-Fleet players Mark Bentley and John Nutter in the starting line-up and Lance Cronin on the bench, while Liam Daish started with only one new trialist – former Fisher, Dulwich and Carshalton defender Nicolas Plumain. Calum Willock was also starting for the first time since he signed a contract.
Gills’ dangerous Stefan Payne saw first sight of goal thought the Fleet had their share of possession in a competitive and committed opening period. But the League Two side went ahead around the quarter-hour mark, Chris Palmer striking a marvellous effort from 30 yards that went in off the bar and goalkeeper Preston Edwards.
For the Fleet, Derek Duncan fired two free-kicks off target as the home side’s midfield, with Craig Stone getting stuck in, demonstrated hard work and purpose. But it was the midfield of both sides that saw most of the ball as chances were at a premium.
Fleet certainly woke up in the early moments of the second half, Duncan’s cross finding Michael West whose header went close. It was Duncan’s last action as he seemed to be carrying a knock but his replacement Tyrone Sealey, who had provided the ammunition for Scott Ginty’s goal at Aveley, put an effort just wide within a minute of coming on. Also on was ex-Barnet, Eastleigh and Bromley midfielder Ashley Carew.
With a spring in their step, Fleet pressed their advantage and reaped a reward on 54 minutes when former Gill Clint Easton worked well down the left and though Ginty rather snatched at the cross, new boy Willock was on hand to fire home from six yards.
But despite the Fleet making most of the running for large parts of the second half, Gills showed their superior class on 78 minutes when Palmer’s kick was headed on by Bentley into the path of Stefan Payne who was able to nod home from close in.
Former favourite Cronin made a bow in a Gills shirt to warm applause from Fleet fans though he held firm to the final whistle. This was a decent performance by a still-unfamiliar Fleet side, especially in the second half, and they were unfortunate to finish second best. Willock getting off the mark in a decent first showing will make the headlines, while Sealey also caught the eye again in his 40 minutes on the field and the Lorraine-Pooley combination at the back looked solid.
TEAM: Preston Edwards, Nicolas Plumain (Ashley Carew 48), Clint Easton, Dean Pooley, Paul Lorraine, Derek Duncan (Tyrone Sealey 48), Michael West, Ram Marwa, Craig Stone, Scott Ginty (Tom Phipp 75), Calum Willock. Subs not used: Chris Henry, Aiden Sherlock, Neil Simpson, Gareth Williams, Dion, Banim