Josh Scott earned Fleet their first win over Hereford in 11 years and with it finally moved the club off the bottom of the Blue Square Bet Premier table after a deserved single-goal triumph.
The previously suspended Ashley Carew returned in midfield at the expense of Tom Phipp, the only change Liam Daish made to his side after Saturday’s frustrating goalless draw against Stockport. And Carew’s range of passing and control gave Fleet a springboard and confidence in the middle of the park as – much like in the FA Trophy game – they took the game to Hereford from the first whistle.
The first decent chance arrived on 7 minutes when Neil Barrett and Stefan Payne combined to whip a low cross along the Hereford six-yard box that just eluded Joe Howe and Liam Enver-Marum at the far post. Fleet were playing some good football and a wonderful, flowing move begun by Enver-Marum deserved more but the final ball went astray.
With Howe pushing forward and showing drive and determination and Carew and Barrett on top in midfield, Fleet barely gave their opponents any time out of their own half. But for all the pressure, Fleet rarely troubled goalkeeper James Bittner and indeed the visitors could have snatched the lead on 22 minutes when Preston Edwards couldn’t claim Andy Gallinagh’s cross and had to be on hand to block well from Ryan Bowman’s follow-up effort.
Back came Fleet and on 29 minutes Enver-Marum was well-placed but headed over the bar. And Fleet had the woodwork at the other end to thank four minutes later when Josh O’Keefe exploited a gap in the Fleet defence and as Edwards advanced, he hit a shot that smacked off the inside of the post and bounced kindly for Jack Saville to shepherd to safety.
Fleet upped the ante again, however, and Carew tested Bittner with a decent low shot, followed up from the resulting corner by Enver-Marum turning the ball into the net but he was aghast at being ruled offside. It wasn’t long, however, before Fleet claimed the goal their enterprising play deserved. It came on 37 minutes, Josh Scott riding the challenge of Gallinagh down the Fleet left and keeping his composure to whip a shot with the outside of his boot well out of Bittner’s reach.
Fleet were just as positive in the second period and refused to give Hereford any sort of opening, though much like the first-half, the home side’s possession consisted of plenty of passing around the visitors’ box but nothing that looked like becoming a second, much-needed goal.
Hereford did carry more threat from the hour mark when former Gillingham striker Marlon Jackson was introduced and the Bulls switched to 4-3-3. Marley Watkins had a chance to level on 66 minutes when Barrett’s howler of a back pass played him in to space in the penalty area but Edwards saved well, while Payne’s promising shot at the other end a minute later was always climbing and cleared the crossbar.
The final 15 minutes saw the Fleet sit deep as they looked to protect their lead and though Hereford stepped up a gear, it really wasn’t enough to earn them a goal. The best they managed was their first corner of the game on 70 minutes and Fleet only looked genuinely worried in the final five minutes of time added on when they just couldn’t find another red shirt to pass to as Hereford buzzed around the home box. But hold out the Fleet did – deservedly so – and the relief at the final whistle was palpable as the win consigned Telford to the unwanted basement spot.
TEAM: Edwards, Stone, Gwillim, Saville, Lorraine, Barrett, Howe (Bellamy 83), Carew, Payne (Elder 89), Scott, Enver-Marum (Azeez 83). Subs not used: Menz, Walsh.