Fleet suffered a third successive defeat as they surrendered a half-time lead against a clinical Forest Green side who still harbour outside hopes of a play-off spot. Liam Daish made one change to his line-up, Calum Willock replacing Nathaniel Pinney for the Fleet top scorer’s first start for a month.
The home side, on a rich run of form, started brightly and Liam Henderson sent two efforts over the bar while Eddie Oshodi wasn’t far away from a 10th minute free-kick. But from a slow start, the Fleet got a toehold in the game and played some decent football along the ground. And the visitors went close on 17 minutes when good approach work from Ricky Shakes and Liam Enver-Marum saw a ball played out to Joe Howe on the edge of the box. The Fleet defender took a hefty swipe at it and smacked a fine shot off the crossbar with the goalkeeper a spectator.
With their tails up, the Fleet went at the home side with Willock’s strength and Enver-Marum’s mobility in particular getting the better of the Rovers defenders. And on 20 minutes they got their reward. From the second of Michael West’s two corners, Paul Lorraine powered through to plant a firm header past Sam Russell.
Neil Barrett had two shots on goal as Fleet went in search of a second, which should have come their way on the half-hour mark as Willock outmuscled two defenders to bear down on goal. Under intense pressure, the Fleet striker stayed on his feet but delayed his shot and Russell made a good save.
Ten minutes after that, Shakes made a good run down the right and as the home defence stood off him, he fired a shot low across goal but there were no supporting players to guide it home. At the other end, Forest Green’s best chance came from a Michael Uwezu effort which, like Howe’s 20 minutes earlier, bounced back off the crossbar and the rebound was wasted.
It was a decent first-half display that encouraged the travelling fans at the break but it was a familiar story as Fleet’s vulnerable period in the first few minutes after the restart was exploited by the home side. Rovers pinged the ball forward and played it across the Fleet box where the influential Kieron Forbes let fly with a shot that Lance Cronin could only stand and admire as it flew past him into the top corner.
And Forbes was instrumental in his side’s second on 62 minutes as he got the better of a host of Fleet bodies around him and though his ball into the box fell rather fortuitously for Matty Taylor, the striker made no mistake as he coolly fired past Cronin.
Fleet just weren’t at the races and though Willock had two decent chances for an equaliser, never really looked like clawing their way back into the game. Daish threw on three substitutes in quick succession and West twice fired wide. The visitors stepped things up in the final five minutes as first Willock and then Tom Phipp troubled the Rovers defence but as the Fleet applied pressure, Rovers delivered the coup de grace.
Substitute Reece Styche cleared a West corner upfield in time added on and Jake Thomson found Chris Stokes who squared the ball for the onrushing Styche in plenty of space and he finished well past Cronin to add gloss to a scoreline that may have slightly flattered the home side.
Fleet now need to pick themselves up inside 72 hours and reverse a run of form they haven’t experienced since the relegation season of 2009-10.
TEAM: Cronin, Stone, Howe, Lorraine, Smith, Barrett (Phipp 79), Marwa (Bellamy 79), West, Shakes (Pinney 71), Enver-Marum, Willock. Subs not used: McNeil, Herd.
Lance Cronin won man of the match v Mansfield. Vote for FGR using drop-down menu above.