Fleet 1 Kettering 2

Fleet are their own worst enemies as Kettering win at Stonebridge Road…

With all the pre-match talk about new signing Moses Ashikodi, lining up against his former club tonight, there was an air of expectation around Stonebridge Road. Certainly fans had plenty to talk about with the inclusion of Darius Charles in midfield, at the expense of Stefan Bailey, and Magno Vieira a casualty of a neck injury sustained on Saturday.

And Fleet looked upbeat initially, with shots pinging from distance, most notably from Peter Holmes twice and a 22nd-minute effort from Charles that wasn’t far off the target.

Kettering were content to soak up early pressure though showed some threat through on-loan Oxford wide man Marcus Kelly. But it was from the opposite side of the pitch that the Poppies carved out their opening goal on 30 minutes. James Dance exploited some hesitation from Clint Easton down the right side and though he had Jean-Paul Marna in attendance in the middle, advanced to shoot past Lance Cronin.

It was more frustration for the Fleet as yet again they saw themselves go a goal behind just as they were building a head of steam. Ricky Shakes attempted to haul his side back into proceedings with a cross that flashed along the six-yard box but John Dempster was on hand to hack clear while at the other end Kelly teed up Darren Wrack with a perfect cross but Wrack rather misjudged a wonderful opportunity and the ball ran clear.

But if the Fleet were frustrated by being behind, they were gnashing their teeth on 36 minutes. Ashikodi finally got the ball to feet and drove at goal only to be upended by Dempster. Holmes was the latest player to try his luck from the spot, but the Fleet’s fortunes in that department have been low, and sure enough the skipper’s penalty was saved easily enough by keeper Nathan Abbey.

The Fleet had two further half-chances, Holmes trying to atone for his miss with a shot wide and Ashikodi’s header from an Easton cross flashing wide. But the visitors were looking comfortable enough at the back with Dempster and Ian Roper proving too strong.

Kettering came out of the traps in the second half looking to extend their lead, Dance coming close to a second with a shot well held by Cronin. But the Fleet got another lifeline on 50 minutes when Ashikodi again wriggled his way through the defence and this time was brought down by Alton Thelwell.

On this occasion, the ex-Kettering man took the penalty and beat his own record of two misses while with the Poppies by striking the ball past Abbey to the delight of the Fleet following in the small home crowd.

But instead of pressing on, Liam Daish’s men shot themselves in the foot once more. With Marna standing yards offside, Charles inexplicably played the ball back towards his goalkeeper and the Kettering striker gleefully accepted the gift, no longer offside since he had been supplied by Charles, and had an easy job to round Cronin and score.

That as good as killed the game as far as the Fleet were concerned, although substitute Scott Ginty did get the ball in the back of the net, but having guided it with his hand, it was ruled out. Kettering enjoyed a relatively incident-free passage to play to close out the game and Fleet were left bereft and now have to turn the corner when fellow strugglers Forest Green visit on Saturday.

TEAM: Cronin, Salmon (Welsh 85), Easton (Wills 90), Pooley, Crooks, Stavrinou, Charles, Holmes, West (Ginty 67), Ashikodi, Shakes. Subs not used: Bailey, Heeroo
Att: 587

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