A weakened Fleet side were unfortunate not to take all three points this afternoon as Woking booked their play-off place with the draw they needed.
Liam Daish made several changes, withdrawing Calum Willock, Ram Marwa and Tom Phipp, while Ricky Shakes and Clint Easton dropped to the bench. Daren Hawkes came in for the injured Preston Edwards and there were also starts for Dean Pooley, Giannoulis Fakinos, Jacob Erskine, Scott Ginty and Joe Howe.
With the pressure off the Fleet but very much on the visitors, the two sets of fans made contrasting groups. But Woking gave their following some early cheer as Lyle Taylor twice blasted shots at rookie Hawkes’ goal, the second a fierocious drive that stuck in the railing behind the goal.
Craig Dobson made Hawkes work as he raced into the penalty area from the Fleet left and the goalkeeper had to get down low to twice block Dobson’s effort. And the influential Dobson was instrumental in the opening goal on 13 minutes sending in a low cross from the Woking left that the Fleet defence flapped at and Elvis Hammond pounced to fire his side ahead.
Woking threatened to up the tempo and grab the game as they did in the one-sided affair at Kingfield but Fleet rode the brief storm. Derek Duncan and Jacob Erskine combined to force the ball home for the Fleet but it was ruled out for a foul on Woking goalkeeper Andy Little.
The home side were finding it difficult to thread passes together in midfield with Fakinos busy but Ashley Carew’s passing game lacking finesse. And as Woking found themselves in the curious position of needing to protect their lead at all costs they seemed to be keeping something in reserve as they took their foot off the gas.
Fleet came out in the second half with much more fire in their bellies – perhaps stung into action by the news they sat fifth in the table as of half-time. And just five minutes into the action, Woking were undone. A fine ball over the top of the visiting defence allowed Michael West to run on to it and as he bore down on goal, Ricky Anane sent him tumbling. Carew stepped up to blast the spot-kick past Little and suddenly Woking were facing the prospect of defeat.
They responded with two good efforts, Hammond beating Hawkes to a ball and squaring for Taylor but his shot was blocked by Pooley. And then from a corner Adam Doyle rose unmarked at the far post but planted a close-range header into the side netting. Fleet really got going from the hour mark when Shakes was introduced and when Woking lost skipper and former Fleet favourite Mark Ricketts to injury – warmly applauded off by all inside the ground – they were really on the back foot.
Twice Little got down low to deny Craig Stone and West whose long-range efforts skidded off the surface and threatened to spill out of the goalkeeper’s hands. Gareth Williams replaced Ginty on 75 minutes and his passing range gave Fleet another dimension, particularly when he supplied Erskine for a goalbound shot that beat Little but Joe McNerney got back to hook the ball off the line. And Fleet really should have won it with four minutes left when Derek Duncan lobbed an effort into the box, Shakes ran on to it and almost hooked a shot over Little and into the net but the Woking keeper somehow managed to claw the ball out of danger.
That last five minutes must have been the longest of Woking fans’ season but try as the Fleet did to lift Kent neighbours Welling into the play-offs courtesy of a second goal, it refused to come and Garry Hill’s side celebrated the final whistle as Liam Daish and his fully deserving squad took the plaudits at the other end of the ground. “Thanks for the support,” was the message. “Now bring on Chelmsford…”
TEAM: Hawkes, Stone, Duncan, Carew, Pooley, Lorraine, West, Fakinos, Erskine, Ginty (G Williams 75), Howe (Shakes 60). Subs not used: Banim, Easton, Sherlock