Fleet made hard work of their three points for an hour or so of this game but a strong finish ultimately put Basingstoke to the sword.
Liam Daish started with new goalkeeper Daren Hawkes as a result of Preston Edwards’ suspension while Joe Howe replaced Conor Okus.
Fleet fans these days know that to turn up five minutes late means missing much of the action and so it proved again as the home side took the lead with just four minutes on the clock. A long free kick fell to Calum Willock on the edge of the penalty area and he feinted a pass that allowed the ball to run on to Michael West who calmly stroked the ball over the line as goalkeeper Mirko Ranieri went to ground.
Fleet could and should have built on their start as Basingstoke took a while to get into any rhythm but as the game wore on, the home side couldn’t break down their opponents and grab the cushion of a two-goal lead.
On 10 minutes Stuart Lake lashed a shot over the bar for the visitors and that was followed shortly after by Craig Stone limping off, to be replaced by Okus, with Howe slotting in to cover at right back. Fleet went close again 12 minutes later when Tom Phipp and Ashley Carew combined well and Carew’s shot was fumbled by Ranieri but cleared before Willock could profit.
Basingstoke front man David Pratt was giving the Fleet defence plenty to think about with his physical game clearly designed to unsettle and Clint Easton saw yellow for clipping his heels and twice he played in Matt Warner who shot wide and was then had a shot saved by Hawkes at the second attempt.
West twice went close, the second time from a good Phipp run that ended with a shot past the post that Willock was only yards away from converting.
In damp conditions, the game wasn’t pleasing on the eye and Fleet struggled to break their opponents down as the second half began. And just before the hour point, Town were back in it. Pratt brought down a pass and turned inside Easton before the Fleet defender slid in – he claimed he got the ball but the referee pointed to the spot. Robbie Rice fired home to Hawkes’ right though the goalkeeper guessed the right way.
It was difficult to see how Fleet were going to muster the strength and guile to find another goal but Daish’s swap of an injured West for Gareth Williams immediately paid dividends. On 62 minutes Ranieri and Warner failed to clear an easy ball between them and as Williams moved in for the kill on the byline, his ankles were clipped by the goalkeeper.
As a nervous Daish sat in the dugout with his back to play, Carew fired home his third penalty to all but end his side’s spot-kick hoodoo this season.
Now Fleet were in no mood to let their lead slip and they played the final 25 minutes in determined fashion. With eight minutes left, substitute Ricky Shakes delivered a superb cross from the right, Williams fired low and saw his shot parried by Ranieri on the goalline but it went only as far as the predatory Willock who stabbed the ball home for Fleet’s third.
Basingstoke continued to harry up front but their cause was long gone and the Fleet picked up the three points to keep pace with their promotion rivals.
TEAM: Hawkes, Stone (Okus 13, Shakes 78), Blake, Howe, Easton, Lorraine, West (G Williams 60), Marwa, Willock, Carew, Phipp. Subs not used: Pooley, Sherlock.
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