Fleet succumb to late sucker punch…
Two goals in the last two minutes sent the Fleet to defeat tonight as decent second-half performance came undone in the final moments of the game.
Yet another goalless draw looked on the cards, particularly in a first half devoid of much entertainment. The Fleet made one change, Gavin Heeroo returning in place of Will Salmon as the home side adopted a 3-5-2 formation though Magno Vieira was playing fairly deep at the outset.
And if anybody edged a quiet first half it was the Fleet, with Luis Cumbers flashing a shot across goal early on. Neither side benefitted from some truly erratic refereeing that simply got worse as the game went on while the packed Fleet midfield seemed wasted with Wills and Heeroo seeming to get in each other’s way and Plan B seeming to be a ball over the top to Cumbers.
That really was all there was to report until Ricky Shakes tested James Bittner in the 37th minute which signalled a livelier finish to the half. On 41 minutes Shakes had another chance inside the box but fired high and wide while a minute later Stefan Bailey had time to pick his spot from 12 yards and should at least have kept his shot on target but that too was sent over the bar.
The second half was an improvement as the Fleet worked the ball into the danger areas and with better finishing – that old chestnut – could and should have opened the scoring. But Salisbury had the first effort on goal, Joe Oastler forcing a save from Lance Cronin on 54 minutes.
Six minutes later and the Fleet carved an opening that was crying out for a better finish as Shakes and Cumbers exchanged passes inside the box, Cumbers back-heeling into Shakes’ path but the Fleet winger again couldn’t keep his shot down and Bittner watched it fly over the upright.
The visitors had a good effort well held by Cronin from a free-kick a minute later as the game opened up and then on 65 minutes Cumbers drew a save from Bittner. The Fleet followed up with a slew of chances, Wills hitting the target but finding the Salisbury keeper in the way, Crooks glancing a header downwards into a ruck of players but the rebound was cleared and then on 76 minutes Vieira produced a thunderous strike from the edge of the box that was surely goalbound but Bittner did very well to palm behind his goal with one hand.
The Brazilian surprisingly made way for Scott Ginty on 81 minutes and a minute later Heeroo tried his luck from distance only to see Bittner save yet again. At the other end, the Whites (in orange) had chances of their own when Chris Flood’s floated cross glanced the post and rebounded into play and later Cronin needed Paul McCarthy’s help to clear off the line after he could only parry Lee Brown’s effort.
With the game heading towards a familiar blank scoreline, Fleet committed themselves forward and with a little over 90 seconds of normal time remaining, the defence opened up and Flood was able to take two bites at the cherry, heading past a stranded Cronin from a hopeful cross.
With defender Luke Prosser booked for his idiotic celebration in front of the Fleet fans who had been booing him earlier for a theatrical fall to the ground, minds were hardly on Fleet’s defending when they were carved open again. Substitute Robbie Sinclair buried a shot into the bottom left after it hit the woodwork and bounced in off Cronin’s back and somehow Salisbury were two goals to the good. It was the Fleet’s eighth goal conceded in the last period of the game this season.
And without scoring for around 200 minutes of football, the irony was that the Fleet grabbed one back when it least mattered, spreading the play down the right for Cumbers to find McCarthy of all people on hand to slot the ball past Bittner.
It was a galling lapse in a game the Fleet could have won and leaves them searching for answers with the pressure for another win increasing by the game.
TEAM: Cronin, Crooks,Charles, McCarthy, Heeroo, Bailey, Wills, Shakes, Welsh, Vieira (Ginty 81), Cumbers. Subs not used: Lamprell, Pooley, Shulton, Forshaw