The last time the Fleet were gunning for promotion to the Conference, nine years ago, Boreham Wood almost spoiled things with an unlikely 1-0 win at Stonebridge Road. While it might be a little premature to talk of promotion in the same way just yet, the visitors again upset the applecart as they fought back from 2-0 down to take home a point.
Liam Daish made three changes to his side, Dean Pooley replacing the injured Clint Easton, Conor Okus coming in for Ricky Shakes and Jacob Erskine making his first start and home debut ahead of Gareth Williams. And Boreham Wood made a bright start, enjoying the bulk of possession in the first five or six minutes until Fleet got the wind in their sails.
That took only eight minutes as Joe Howe delivered a cross into the box and as Conor Okus fired across goal, the ball almost seemed to hit Erskine on the shin and he managed to get enough power on it to steer it over the line from six yards out.
With that, the home side began to relax and dictate the game. Derek Duncan and Ashley Carew linked well down the Fleet left and Erskine’s aerial ability was adding a new dimension to the Fleet attack as he and Calum Willock won plenty of knock-downs and gave the Wood back line plenty to think about.
And Fleet extended their lead on 20 minutes when Ram Marwa sent in a high ball aimed at Erskine. Goalkeeper Wes Foderingham cleared it to the edge of the box where Tom Phipp was lurking and as the ball sat up, Phipp stroked it powerfully into an unguarded net.
The cushion of a two-goal lead kick-started a fine spell for the Fleet as they knocked the ball around from wing to wing, with Boreham Wood chasing shadows at times. Carew whipped in a curling free-kick that just cleared the crossbar, Howe almost rounded off a wonderful move that began on the Fleet left and Wood were fortunate to survive a goalmouth scramble as Fleet had three shots blocked in and around the six-yard box.
The visitors had a similar chance at the end of the first half when Ola Sogbanmu dug the ball clear of a jumble of legs and his goalbound shot was diverted wide by the outstretched leg of Preston Edwards.
Fleet’s best chance of the second half arrived courtesy of Erskine who got the ball trapped under his feet as he advanced on goal though he held it up long enough to play Phipp in but the Fleet midfielder pulled his shot just wide of the post from 15 yards.
But as the game settled into a lull, Fleet perhaps feeling they’d wrapped up the three points, Boreham Wood struck on 65 minutes. The home defence had been looking somewhat ruffled by the power of Sogbanmu and he played the ball into David Bryant on the edge of the box whose advance was obstructed by Paul Lorraine. Mario Noto’s free kick deflected high off Pooley and as Lorraine prepared to clear it off the line, Sogbanmu bundled in to force it over the line.
What had looked a formality became a disaster only two minutes later as the Fleet were undone by another set-piece. Noto’s corner wasn’t cleared and as the ball pinged around the six-yard box, first Sogbanmu and then Mike Cestor stuck a foot out and steered it past Edwards.
WIth substitute Sam Hurrell on the wing causing problems, the visitors refused to simply sit on their point and carved out chances to win it, with Noto sending a dipping shot just over the bar and Sogbanmu brushing aside Pooley in the last minute but fortunately his touch was heavy as he bore down on Edwards’ goal.
The Fleet regained the initiative after the goal but the Boreham Wood defence had wised up to Erskine and Willock and there was no way past impressive full-back Daniel Braithwaite. Ricky Shakes was brought on and he carved out a half-chance as Willock turned and shot from his cross but that was about it as a week after coming back from two goals down, the Fleet were left to chew on the reverse happening.
TEAM: Edwards, Howe, Duncan, Okus (Shakes 72), Pooley, Lorraine, Phipp, Marwa, Willock, Carew, Erskine (G Williams 89). Subs not used: Hawkes, Adam Williams, Sherlock
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