Fleet win fourth away game in succession to pull further away from danger zone…
With a run of three away fixtures due after next week’s Stonebridge Road clash against Barrow, today’s win proves the Fleet have no fears of such a schedule being as it was their fourth successive victory away from home.
With Alex Stavrinou still suffering from a hamstring problem and Clint Easton out of course courtesy of last week’s injury, Gavin Heeroo and Jordan Collins were again called upon.
And despite their lowly league position, Gateshead were coming off the back of wins against Mansfield and Barrow so eager to pull the Fleet back into the relegation mix. They made most of the early running with striker Daryl Clare appearing sharper than in previous seasons’ tussles with the Fleet. Dean Pooley got a good block in on 13 minutes after a succession of Gateshead corners threatened to unlock the Fleet rearguard, while at the other end Stefan Bailey and Moses Ashikodi had sight of goal but their shots were hardly threatening.
But on 28 minutes, slightly against the run of play, the Fleet edged in front. Gavin Heeroo lofted a ball through to Magno Vieira and the Fleet striker raced on to it only to see his shot very well parried by goalkeeper Paul Farman. But the loose ball fell to Ricky Shakes and he scooped it into the net from 12 yards.
The Fleet’s speciality of late seems to be quick first-half double strikes and they repeated the feat on the half-hour mark. Ashikodi played in Pooley and his diaganol ball across the box fell kindly to Vieira who eagerly gobbled up goal number 15 for the season for him.
It could have been 3-0, thank you and good night minutes later when Vieira again got himself into a fine position but Farman managed to tip his effort away. But the home side punished the Fleet for that miss shortly before half-time when Peter Winn buried Craig Baxter’s cross with a firm header past Lance Cronin. Shakes and Bailey could have restored the two-goal cushion on the stroke of half-time as the Fleet won a couple of corners, but Farman was in fine form in the home goal.
The second half mirrored the first for large periods with Gateshead enjoying plenty of forward momentum and the Fleet defence having to be on guard as Clare threatened on a number of occasions. Cronin had to be alert to the first shot of the half when Winn almost grabbed his and Gateshead’s second but the Fleet keeper did very well to thwart him.
And minutes later Clare crashed a header against the post from tricky winger Baxter’s cross as Fleet’s slender one-goal advantage looked in real danger of crumbling. James Curtis also aimed a header just wide of the upright from an Andy Parkinson corner.
But the home side’s luck really was out as the Fleet extended the lead on 65 minutes. Ashikodi pounced on an unfortunate Andy Ferrell back pass and slotted past Farman who barely even went for the ball so surprised was he that play had been allowed to continue after the linesman had originally flagged for offside and the goalkeeper was booked for his remonstration.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of Gateshead and the Fleet closed out the game without too much real bother, Clare’s goalbound shot sticking in the mud apart, to take home a very creditable three points. And while the tally of games-played for Liam Daish’s side continues to be a source of worry, it can be discounted the longer the Fleet continue to put the points in the bag. Indeed this afternoon’s win now means that Gateshead and Forest Green both need to win all their games in hand to overhaul the ever-improving Ebbsfleet United.
TEAM: Cronin, Pooley, Collins (Salmon 62), Crooks, Charles, Heeroo, Bailey, Holmes, Shakes (West 79), Vieira (Ginty 85), Ashikodi. Subs not used: Lamprell, Wills.