Fleet 0-2 Altrincham

Play-off-chasing Altrincham took pretty much their only two openings of the first-half to land victory at the Kuflink Stadium as the luck just wouldn’t drop for the Fleet. Danny Searle’s side pushed to get a foothold back in the game but it just wouldn’t come and they now have to take their season on the road to meet FC Halifax Town and Boreham Wood.

The Fleet boss adjusted his pack to revert to last Saturday’s eleven, Bryant Bilongo back in for Greg Cundle after their midweek switch at Solihull.

Fleet’s first venture forward saw Toby Edser inch his way into the box. He found Dominic Poleon who had some space to supply Rakish Bingham but the visitors were swift to block. Ben Chapman’s cross then dropped invitingly in the six-yard box but the only man near that was Justin Donawa to sweep to safety.

On 13 minutes, another purposeful attack ran back out to Edser who swept a low shot through a crowd but it ran just wide. Fleet were having the best of it and a great interception from Billy Clifford created him some room in the middle to shape for a shot but that curled high and wide.

The best chance came on 22 minutes, Bilongo battling into position to the left of the goal. He did well to get a foot in to present Myles Kenlock who dug the ball out at the second attempt, squaring for Poleon whose close-range shot was kept out by skipper Lewis Baines. Donawa came off worst in that tangle with Kenlock and had to be stretchered off, to be replaced by Colchester loanee Alex Newby.

Fleet kept knocking at the door and on the half-hour Bingham slipped a pass to Bilongo who swung his foot around the ball and saw his shot spin low past the post, helped on its was by an Altrincham deflection.

It was substitute Newby who opened the scoring for the visitors against the run of play on 35 minutes when Justin Amaluzor had the Fleet defence in a spin and with the ball pinging around inside the box, the substitute poked a foot at the ball to fire it beyond Mark Cousins.

The equaliser might have come minutes later when a deft through ball from Bingham was well placed for Clifford running through but he was unable to get a clean shot away and robbed of possession. Instead with their very next attack, Altrincham won the penalty that gave them a two-goal lead on 39 minutes. Amaluzor got away down the right, taking a good portion of Kenlock’s shirt with him. He was allowed to continue and Kenlock then overturned him inside the box, Regan Linney tucking away the subsequent spot-kick.

Once again, Fleet tried to respond immediately, Bingham heading down for Poleon who spun quickly and fired on target but again was met with a defender blocking the ball’s route to goal. It just wouldn’t happen for the Fleet, with Clifford’s on-target effort a minute before half-time taking a deflection that forced goalkeeper Ethan Ross to tip it over.

Cundle replaced Bilongo for the second-half and soon made his presence felt with a run on 48 minutes that ended with Chapman whistling a dipping effort over, helped on its way by the fingertips of Ross.

Edser’s powerful sprint down the centre of the pitch promised another chance but a superb tackle by Mitch Hancox 20 yards out denied him. Bingham glanced a header just wide from Chapman’s pass on 58 minutes but Altrincham were holding firm around their penalty area.

The fear it wouldn’t be the Fleet’s day was never more so apparent than just past the hour mark when Chapman’s high delivery from the right was met by a stretching Bingham whose header bounced down on the line before it was grabbed by Ross with the Plough End and Chapman loud in their appeals the ball had crossed.

The visitors were content to keep Fleet at bay but got away on the counterattack on 67 minutes and Linney drew a full-length save out of Cousins. It was a counter-counterattack as Bingham then raced away at the other end but couldn’t find Poleon as he made it into the box and fired a second attempt off target.

Fleet kept plugging away and another Bingham shot went wide of the upright with a quarter of an hour left and then had his shirt almost pulled off his back moments later as he went up for a header but replacement referee Gary Parsons ruled that as above board.

Omari Sterling-James and Chapman watched as efforts took unfortunate deflections in the box and in the dying minutes Chapman whipped another one across goal that skipped clear despite lunges five yards out by both Bingham and Poleon.

The agony wasn’t over for the Fleet fans as Tanner than crashed a shot off the crossbar with the goalkeeper beaten in the 90th minute and Bingham’s shot rolled millimetres past the post as Ross got a touch – and Altrincham somehow escaped with a clean sheet as time ticked away.

EUFC: Cousins, Kenlock, Fogarty (Sterling-James 75), Skura, Bilongo (Cundle 46), Chapman, Wright, Clifford (Tanner 60), Edser, Bingham, Poleon. Subs: McQueen, Domi,
AFC: Ross, Banks, E.Jones, Baines, Osborne, Linney, Conn-Clarke (Kosylo 75), Amaluzor (Roscoe 46), Cooper, Donawa (Newby 27), Hancox. Subs: Angus, Mooney
Attendance: 1,915 (131 away)

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