For a side that couldn’t buy a win at the beginning of the season, Fleet are certainly making up for it with their seventh consecutive win in all competitions as they came from behind to beat Whitehawk convincingly.
Dean Rance and Alex Osborn came into the starting line-up as Stacy Long and Michael Corcoran made way, the only two changes from the win over Gloucester last week. And if the visitors were disrupted by the sacking of two players involved in match-fixing allegations, or the need to name manager Darren Freeman among only four substitutes, they didn’t show it in an energetic opening period where they looked threatening in the final third.
That said, Fleet had the first real opening when Billy Bricknell wrong-footed the Whitehawk defence and fired off a shot that goalkeeper Dillon Phillips managed to block and divert just beyond Alex Osborn who was racing in at the far post.
But Fleet were struggling to contain the lively Alex Parsons on the right wing and one of Skrill South’s top scorers, Danny Mills, in the middle as both players gave the home defence plenty to think about. Aiden Palmer made an important last-ditch tackle on Parsons and Osei Sankofa had to head off the line from a Whitehawk corner.
Thus it came as little surprise that the visitors got their noses in front on 12 minutes when former Hayes & Yeading full back Tom Cadmore drilled a fine low shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Led by the energetic Anthony Cook and Bricknell, Fleet went in search of an equaliser and duly found it nine minutes later. The irrepressible Cook was fouled by Matt Lawrence – who walked a tightrope after numerous warnings from the referee for much of the first half – and the Fleet winger lofted a long free kick which Sankofa nodded on to the far post and Osborn hooked the ball high into the net with a little help from Bricknell and Whitehawk defender Lee Hills.
The visitors’ discipline suffered as they grew continually frustrated by the referee’s decisions and the three yellow cards they picked up before half-time saw stewards escort the officials from the pitch at half-time.
Though it had threatened to degenerate into a more physical encounter, the second half was a tamer affair in terms of misdemeanours as Fleet’s well-oiled machine clicked into top gear. And for the third game in succession, Michael Thalassitis scored in the 10-minute period after the restart.
It was a well-worked goal, Cook’s trickery on 54 minutes allowing him to whip in a low cross and as the ball rather got stuck underneath a defender’s foot and rolled clear, Thalassitis pounced to sweep it beyond Phillips.
There was almost a repeat minutes later as Bricknell raced into the box and back-heeled the ball into the path of Thalassitis but the Cypriot international was unbalanced, his shot was heavy but nevertheless on target and Phillips just clawed it back from the line at the last minute.
And four minutes later, Fleet wrapped things up, Cook getting the goal his performance deserved when he cut in from the left wing, beat three men who really should have defended it better, before unleashing a shot past Phillips.
Thereafter the game petered out as Whitehawk turned around their defensive lapses but had little left in the tank to bother the Fleet, who at times played the ball around with a confidence born of seven successive wins. Cook continued to run Cadmore ragged but the closest he came to another goal was a wild free-kick that sailed over the Swanscombe End.
But by that point, Fleet were well on their way to another three points as manager Steve Brown shook off the traditional hoodoo of the manager of the month award.
TEAM: Edwards, Sessegnon, Palmer, McMahon, Lorraine, Sankofa, Osborn (Corcoran), Rance, Thalassitis (Long), Bricknell, Cook. Subs not used: Hall, Howe, May.