Stacy Long came off the bench to kick-start a late Fleet revival as Steve Brown’s side moved into a season-high league position of third courtesy of a smash and grab raid at Kingfield.
It was not difficult to see why luckless Hayes & Yeading United haven’t drawn a game this season – their submission in the final 15 minutes of this match illustrated the fine line between victory and defeat, something the home fans had to suffer the previous Saturday when a late goal sunk their side by the same scoreline.
Fleet were unchanged once again, with Michael Thalassitis and Ben May leading the line while Hayes made a number of changes, including the dropping of former Ebbsfleet loanee Louie Soares to the bench.
The first half, in front of a sparse crowd on a cold night, was as might be expected with neither side playing entertaining or enterprising football. Hayes had first sight of goal, their highly-rated skipper Luke Williams firing over the bar on a day it was revealed he was being chased by Football League clubs.
Frankie Merrifield showed good skill on 18 minutes to hoodwink Chris Sessegnon and delivered a ball into Anthony Furlonge who just couldn’t get his shot on target from a difficult position. Fleet responded with a Dean Rance drive over the bar while Ben May and Thalassitis had potshots but nothing to worry Jamie Young in the Hayes goal.
And on 24 minutes Fleet found themselves behind, top scorer Jake Reid netting his seventh of the campaign with a cool strike past Preston Edwards. When Ben May limped off injured three minutes later, it looked like it wasn’t going to be Fleet’s night and Hayes continued to gain an upper hand of sorts, Jeffrey Mitchell almost exposing Paul Lorraine’s casual pass only to blast it wide.
The second half could only get better from a Fleet perspective and the men in white appeared a little more fired up about the task in hand, though they still made somewhat heavy weather of the opening period. Thalassitis, Alex Osborn and substitute Billy Bricknell all tested Young but the Fleet midfield lacked the slick control and passing of the Basingstoke match and Anthony Cook, while he toiled away in search of a creative spark, just couldn’t find a killer pass.
But gradually the visitors looked more ominous. Thalassitis’ tireless running seemed to wear down his marker and he was unlucky to see a low drive held by Young on 64 minutes, while at the other end the impressive Reid continued to test the Fleet defence.
Bricknell then had two opportunities to draw Fleet level: first, from Aiden Palmer’s cross, he headed wide and then on 75 minutes, wasting Sessegnon’s pass – probably his side’s best opportunity to that point.
Those chances might have proved costly but Long had other ideas when he replaced McMahon on 76 minutes. Some 180 seconds later, the Fleet substitute couldn’t get out of the way of Cook’s shot but still managed to spin and fire the ball past Young before the Hayes defence could react.
And within two minutes, unbelievably, the Fleet had sewn the game up. Long again was pivotal, sending the ball into the box where Lorraine’s header was diverted into the back of the net by the unfortunate Mitchell. Bricknell could have heaped further misery upon Young after the goalkeeper made a hash of a clearance but the Fleet striker gifted the ball back to the Hayes custodian.
Reid and substitute Kamaron English kept working in the final minutes to rescue a point for Hayes but to no avail as Fleet powered into third place and in sight of the top positions.
TEAM: Edwards, Sessegnon, Palmer, McMahon (Long 76), Lorraine, Sankofa, Osborn (Corcoran 90), Rance, May (Bricknell 27), Thalassitis, Cook. Subs not used: Hall, Howe