Battered and bloodied Fleet edge out York City for visitors’ first defeat in 11 games…
The old adage that Fleet perform best with the odds stacked against them was raised again in the aftermath of the Histon defeat and sure enough the Fleet bounced back against high-flying York City in a fiercely-contested 90 minutes this afternoon.
Liam Daish was forced into two changes, his first for five matches, as Alex Stavrinou and Will Salmon succumbed to injury, meaning starts for Gavin Heeroo and Dean Pooley.
And while those changes may have altered the manager’s gameplan, it was further hampered as early as the 7th minute when Clint Easton received a serious injury. Michael Rankine, who had earlier enraged fans by leading with his arm in a challenge with Darius Charles, appeared to do the same in an aerial duel with Easton and there was an audible crack as his elbow caught the former Norwich player in the face.
Easton managed to walk from the pitch though left in an ambulance with a suspected fracture to his cheekbone and injury to his eye socket. On came Jordan Collins for his first start since the autumn and though he found it difficult to contain the energetic runs of Ben Purkiss down the right early on, he was well covered by his centre backs.
The first half was a fairly disjointed affair with Rankine enjoying York’s best opportunity when put through by Levi Mackin but he snatched at his shot and Lance Cronin gathered. For the Fleet, there was little change up front, despite the industrious running of Stefan Bailey, though birthday boy Magno Vieira and Moses Ashikodi sent in long-range shots.
Charles and Leon Crooks were enjoying total supremacy and York hotshot striker Richard Brodie’s frustration visibly increased as the half wore on to the extent that he left the field at half-time remonstrating with Crooks and the pair had to be separated by teammates.
He re-emerged in the second half to exchange pleasantries with Fleet fans on the Stonebridge Road side of the ground but if he thought there was to be any let up from the well-marshalled Fleet back line, he was sorely mistaken.
But with Ashikodi looking livelier, the Fleet were given more of a cutting edge and the big striker broke the deadlock on 52 minutes. After powering clear of full back James Meredith on the edge of the box, leaving the York man prostrate on the floor, Ashikodi wriggled into the area and sent in a low angled shot that arrowed in through a crowd of bodies.
City boss Martin Foyle sent on Fleet old boys Michael Gash and Neil Barrett, with Gash part of a three-man attack but that plan went awry within minutes. Brodie, clearly still suffering in the frustration department, won a header in acres of space that flew towards Pooley and as the Fleet defender made to clear it, Brodie jumped in on him arms first for no reason at all.
A melee was avoided as the referee pulled a red card from his pocket and Pooley left the field, blood streaming from a facial wound. Both sides played with 10 men for a period until Pooley re-emerged to applause, but York brought on Courtney Pitt and a pair of free kicks from the ex-Cambridge player unsettled the Fleet defence for the first time.
But the home side stood resolute and aside from Crooks and Charles, Heeroo’s steadying influence after such a lengthy lay-off was a credit to him. Ricky Shakes also carried on from where he’d left off on Tuesday night, full of running, while Collins got to grips with the York right side and effectively stamped out the danger from there.
Five minutes of stoppage time and a couple of corners failed to breach the Crooks-Charles wall and the Fleet deservedly hung on for the points which, with most other results going their way, leaves them seven points clear of the drop zone.
For Liam Daish, it was as good a way as any of celebrating five years in charge of a club he looks increasingly like keeping in the division if this kind of fighting spirit was anything to go by.
TEAM: Cronin, Pooley, Easton (Collins 7), Crooks, Charles, Heeroo, Holmes, Shakes, Bailey, Vieira, Ashikodi (Ginty 84). Subs not used: Welsh, Wills, West