Two goals for Calum Willock help Fleet on their way to a first home victory…
There are two things you can just about guarantee at Stonebridge Road these days – a hatful of chances for the home side and the likelihood that the opposition will be reduced to 10 men. But this time the Fleet made both these factors tell as they scored two goals in the final 11 minutes to secure victory against Weston-Super-Mare.
Liam Daish opted for an attacking shape to his side starting Gareth Williams for the first time, alongside Calum Willock, while Ricky Shakes also kept his place in the side. Clint Easton recovered sufficiently from a hamstring to slot in at left back but there was only room on the bench for one of last week’s goal heroes Tom Phipp.
It was the other goal hero, Craig Stone, who was first into the action for the Fleet, however, firing narrowly over after a layback from Calum Willock. The Fleet bossed the opening 20 minutes, putting the visitors under plenty of pressure, Michael West, Willock and Williams spraying the ball from side to side while Stone, clearly with an eye for goal after last week, always took the opportunity for a shot from his central position.
The Fleet had numerous sights of goal but nothing clear cut until the 20-minute mark when Williams dug the ball clear just inside the box and let fly with a shot that beat Lloyd Irish in goal but cannoned back off the foot of the post. But just before the half-hour mark, Weston took a shock lead. Despite West appearing to be manhandled down the Fleet right, the visitors broke, Marcus Duharty sent in a fast, floated ball and a shot hit Chris Henry on the arm though the award of deliberate handball and penalty appeared harsh.
Preston Edwards dived the wrong way from Nat Pepperall’s spot kick and the Fleet suddenly had a mountain to climb. Climb they did but without enough conviction for frustrated home fans. West had a fine chance from a cross to the far post but his shot hit the ground before bouncing high into Irish’s arms. Lorraine turned a defender and shot low towards the keeper while Williams, Shakes and Marwa all had snapshots or saw their efforts scrambled away from the six-yard box.
At times, Fleet’s build-up play was excellent but without a clinical finish to anything and Weston playing deep, with one man up front, the goal just wouldn’t come. That all changed within minutes of the restart when Williams got the ball down on the left side of the box and squared it to Willock who drove a shot under Irish for the equaliser.
That seemed to wake Weston up and the side who had barely mustered an attack before that twice gave the Fleet defence some anxiety. Lorraine found himself outfoxed by Duharty who then dinked the ball past Pooley only to find Edwards’ low block enough to thwart his efforts. The same player then shot narrowly wide after Kane Ingram squeezed a pass between Henry and Pooley.
But the Fleet reasserted their dominance and substitute Phipp had an excellent half an hour on the pitch, giving the home side another option in the final third. Williams went close with a free-kick and then Lorraine saw a header brush the crossbar. Phipp went down under a Jamie Price challenge in the box as Fleet fans howled for a penalty and a minute later Price found himself in the book for dissent. It was a costly moment as a few minutes after that caution, he cynically upended a rampaging Phipp who had powered through the middle and the referee produced a second yellow card.
Fleet fans have learned not to over-celebrate an opponent’s dismissal in recent weeks but their side gave them instant relief from the free kick. Substitute Ashley Carew spotted West clear out wide and the Fleet youngster ghosted clear to hit a terrific shot which flew past Irish to smash into the back of the net.
Fleet rarely looked in any danger after that. Carew twisted and turned past the same player four times on the edge of the box before curling a shot centimetres wide of the post. Even Lorraine had time for a spot of showboating as he somewhat fortuitously found his way past three players only to see his pass scooped off the toes of Williams.
And a deserved third goal came in the final minutes when Williams powered to the byline and played the ball low across the six-yard box. Willock, between two defenders, all but lay on the ball as it came across but the unorthodox effort was just enough to take it over the line.
The result takes Fleet to sixth in the table ahead of a week’s break from league action and the onset of this season’s FA Cup campaign.
Preston Edwards’ 39% of the vote gave him another man of the match award against Dorchester. Who should win today’s? Vote [ HERE ].
TEAM: Edwards, Henry, Easton, Stone (Carew 75), Pooley, Lorraine, West, Marwa, Willock, Williams, Shakes (Phipp 62). Subs not used: Hagan, Duncan, Udoji.