Three points and three goals gave Fleet sufficient impetus to leapfrog Dartford into fourth place as the home side enjoyed a third win in succession over fellow promotion hopefuls Oxford City.
Kieran Monlouis set the ball rolling in the first-half but a swift and precise brace from Elliott Romain put the game beyond City, despite their consolation reply.
There was just the one change for Dennis Kutrieb, necessitated by Craig Tanner’s injury last week and he made way for Alex Finney, who slotted into the middle of a back line of three. Former Fleet defender Charlie Rowan started for the visitors, whose midfield man – Reece Fleet appropriately – marked his 300th game for the club.
On a sunny afternoon, it was a fairly pedestrian opening, similar to the pace of last week’s Bath City encounter. Oxford’s first show of teeth came six minutes in when Jacob Bancroft’s cross almost eluded Louie Moulden in the bright skies as it floated over his head but the Fleet keeper was able to pick up the bounce at his far post.
Fleet responded when Sefa Kahraman’s searching ball forward almost released Ben Chapman for a run into the Oxford box but the ball just skipped ahead to safety.
Kahraman’s assistance was to the fore once again minutes later when his corner was headed just over the bar. Fleet were gradually penning Oxford back into the half although Josh Ashby sent a low drive from distance that was easy for Moulden to take.
The hosts continued to work set pieces and Chapman won another following a patient buildup as his positive run and shot was turned into the side netting for another corner.
And then it was time for the Fleet to nose ahead on 18 minutes. The credit went to Jack Paxman for his persistence and quick thinking to rob a City defender and his strength got a pass through to Shaq Coulthirst. The striker in turn played the ball inside for Monlouis to sweep on to and he curled a shot much like his assist last week that found the perfect spot in the far corner out of Ben Dudzinski’s reach.
Fleet controlled the rest of half without needing to hit top gear. There were a couple more chances through to the break, Christian N’Guessan’s drive from midfield finding Paxman who raced into the box but saw his shot blocked.
Fleet were almost caught cold when City broke on 35 minutes, a cross to Lewis Coyle brilliantly blocked by the well-positioned Kahraman and the only other danger came on the stroke of half-time from a deep cross but Moulden was up high to punch that clear.
It was another half-time introduction for Dominic Poleon who replaced Finney for the second half and his impact was instantaneous. Barely 30 seconds after the whistle, the sub latched on to a ball towards the box, catching the Oxford defence napping. Dudzinski advanced and managed to steal the ball off Poleon’s toes but it bounced up for Romain to follow up and connect sweetly and he drove a precise shot into the middle of the net with the keeper stranded.
Full of confidence, Fleet continued to advance and Monlouis ran from midfield with intent but swung his shot wide of the post. There was a mazy run by Zac McEachran at the other end that deserved more but he was closed down and Chapman was able to steer the play away from the Fleet goal to clear.
A third goal arrived on 57 minutes. Kahraman sent a wickedly inswinging free-kick towards the target that was somewhat riskily headed behind with some force by a visiting defender. The Fleet’s German centre-back then took on the corner duties and another superb delivery was gobbled up by Romain who sent his second goal in 10 minutes past Dudzinski.
That might have been game over and to all intents and purposes probably was but Oxford managed to carve themselves a lifeline with 20 minutes left. After Coulthirst’s useful run was cut out in the City box, they broke upfield and a ball from the left by George Harmon found substitute and top scorer Joe Iaciofano and he was able to turn a shot past Moulden at his near post.
Credit to Oxford who kept playing some positive stuff in the hunt for a second goal that might have made more of a tight affair of the final few minutes. Fleet’s lead was well-protected by some competent, well-organised defensive discipline and with Rakish Bingham introduced to the action after his long lay-off, an on-target drive for him on 75 minutes would have been the icing on the cake but Dudzinski saved.
With 10 minutes left there was a final moment of danger from the visitors, Moulden’s kick upfield was intercepted which set the Fleet on the back foot and Iaciofano got the wrong side of Kahraman but proved wasteful by sending the ball high from close range.
Dudzinski played a risky ball out into his own box with his defenders having been pulled out of position by Poleon in the dying seconds but he got away with that, Fleet content to take an excellent three points on an entertaining afternoon for the home faithful.
EUFC: Moulden, Jombati, Finney (Poleon 46), Kahraman, Solly, N’Guessan, Paxman, Chapman, Monlouis (J.Martin 82), Romain, Coulthirst (Bingham 72). Subs: L.Martin, Haigh
OCFC: Dudzinski, Asare, Harmon (O’Donkor 79), Ashby, Rowan, Coyle (Iaciofano 61) Fleet, McEachran, Owusu, Bancroft (Clark 61), Dasilva. Subs: Matsuzaka, Kyprianou