Calum Willock scores first BSBS goal for Fleet but they learn hard lesson…
Fleet fans may have been forgiven for expecting to improve on their two-in-14 record of wins on opening day since 1996 but the August jinx struck again as unfancied Maidenhead claimed all three points.
For the second season in a row it was an almost completely new team that took to the field though Liam Daish?s blend of experience at a higher level allied with homegrown youth has Fleet fans expecting to compete at this level. In a cagey start, both sides probed for an opening, the visitors utilising their flanks while Fleet preferred to build through the middle using Ram Marwa and Ashley Carew.
But there was very little to choose between the sides and the Fleet had to wait until late in the first half for their best chance when Michael West?s throw in was dummied by Calum Willock into the path of Scott Ginty who floated a shot that shaved the bar and went over. Ashley Carew tried his luck twice from distance while Willock got behind the Maidenhead defence from a long ball by Derek Duncan and his low cross just eluded the advancing Ginty.
On 38 minutes the Fleet lost Clint Easton, presumably to another flare-up of his calf injury and fans got their first chance to see Tyron Sealey in league action. West moved to left wing and Duncan slotted in at the back. At the other end, Preston Edwards had to deal with several decent crosses and twice he punched clear as the ball loomed high.
But things livened up in the second half with Sealey?s pace and drive spurring the Fleet on and they had Maidenhead on the back foot.Willock?s aerial ability and hold-up play was a good foil for the willing and dangerous Ginty whose threat grew as the game wore on.
The visitors were clearly looking to damage the Fleet on the break and they counterattacked well, Sam Collins their chief threat down the left. On 53 minutes Fleet went close when Willock forced the goalkeeper into a good save but then Collins broke down the flank and crossed into the six-yard box, Paul Lorraine having to be alert to slide in and clear the danger.
And just as the hour mark passed, Maidenhead took a shock lead. Lorraine was penalised inside the box for a challenge that nobody could quite work out and former Oxford striker Keiron St Aimie scored from the spot. Except he didn?t as the referee ordered it to be retaken; this time he blasted it low and Fleet fans celebrated it going wide but it must have either broken the net or gone through a gap as the goal stood.
All credit to the Fleet, however, as they refused to be shellshocked. Little more than two minutes later, Sealey fed Ginty on the right and he hit a 30-yard crossfield pass into West?s path. The Fleet midfielder contrived to miskick his pass but it was enough to trickle past the covering defender and Willock bent a low shot around the goalkeeper for the equaliser.
Fleet scented blood on 75 minutes as Jamal Fyfield picked up a second yellow card (his first came for taking an age over a throw-in) as he went in hard on Marwa. But instead of opening the floodgates, the visitors nicked what would prove to be the winner before Fleet could get into their stride. With Edwards a spectator for much of the half, he was powerless to prevent substitute Martel Powell sweeping home a loose ball from just inside the box that silenced Stonebridge Road.
Fleet upped the ante as they sought to get something from the game and West rattled the crossbar with a decent drive from 20 yards. And the home side?s cause was helped when Collins? two-footed tackle on Sealey reduced the visitors to nine men as the game grew increasingly physical.
But the Fleet threw too many long balls forward rather than play themselves into position. But when they did, it almost reaped reward. Sealey squeezed the ball through to Ginty who did well to keep his balance as he fought off two defenders and his shot over the advancing goalkeeper was on target but cruelly cleared the bar, rising all the time.
Both Carew and Willock forced the goalkeeper into good saves while at the death Sealey found space and time wide on the right and he chipped the ball into the six-yard box where Fleet players were queuing up to score but the final shot was blocked and cleared. It wasn?t enough, however, and Liam Daish will hope his players have learned a few lessons about their new league.
As consolation, the Fleet were the better side and in Ginty and Willock they appear to have two strikers who can complement one another. Chris Henry largely impressed as makeshift right back though the manager will realise his charges will have to be on their game with the likes of Farnborough, Dover and Dartford to come.
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TEAM: Edwards, Henry (Stone), Easton (Sealey), Carew, Pooley, Lorraine, West (Benjamin), Marwa, Willock, Ginty, Duncan. Subs not used: Phipp, Sherlock.