It’s a second 3-0 reverse in a row for the Fleet…
The Fleet went down to another 3-0 defeat on the road this afternoon but once again the performance and application was there and Liam Daish must hope the goals and resilience follow as soon as possible.
With Stefan Bailey suffering a hamstring problem, Scott Shulton won a recall and he was joined by new loan signing Simon Thomas as two changes from Tuesday night’s defeat at Stevenage. Mansfield began to show early signs of form, with Louis Briscoe and Craig Armstrong proving the chief danger, as they remained most of the afternoon.
Indeed Briscoe drew the first save from Lance Cronin on 9 minutes and then Luke Jones glanced a header just wide from a corner. At the other end, Darius Charles tried the same with a free header and Ishmael Welsh forced Alan Marriott turn his effort round the post. Welsh was in the thick of the action again two minutes later with a low shot that had Marriott stooping low.
Mansfield continued to probe but the Fleet more than held their own and Magno Vieira’s 25th minute miss should have brought more reward after he dispossessed Gary Silk but struck wide of the post. But with counter-attack the order of the day, Mansfield exploited the Fleet’s forward impetus and Marriott cleared long to Briscoe who led a charge towards the Fleet goal. Armstrong got free down the left and found Rob Duffy at the far post with a cross that the former Oxford striker tucked gleefully past Cronin.
The Fleet were looking brisk enough despite the goal and Gavin Heeroo tested the goalkeeper with a free kick before Welsh appeared to be bundled over in the box on the stroke of half-time but the referee wasn’t interested. There was little to choose between the sides other than the goal and the Fleet’s lack of forward penetration, though Thomas showed good touch and pace as he attempted to forge a partnership with Vieira.
The visitors continued to show initiative into the second half, with the impressive Welsh causing problems and drawing a tackle from Garner that saw the referee reach into his pocket for a yellow card. Vieira rolled a shot along the box in another good move but with the Fleet on the front foot, the Stags knocked the stuffing out of their youthful opponents with a second goal on 53 minutes. Jones carved the Fleet defence wide open and with even Briscoe seeming to wait for the linesman’s flag, he nevertheless placed a shot under Cronin to make it 2-0.
The home side increased the lead again within 10 minutes as the Fleet looked all at sea. The Stags’ wingers looked in command, though Will Salmon and Jordan Collins performed well in the full-back positions. It wasn’t enough to stop Kyle Perry exploiting space down the right and though Cronin parried his shot, substitute Jake Speight was on hand to mop up, heading over the line to extend Mansfield’s lead.
With another unflattering scoreline looming, Fleet tried to make it more respectable, Thomas, Vieira and Shulton all having efforts of varying quality as Mansfield relaxed but no Fleet player seemed able to apply the finishing touches.
Once more it was a creditable performance by Daish’s young side, who show they are more than a match for more illustrious opponents but while goals are surrendered cheaply and proving difficult to come by at the other end, the Fleet will struggle to haul themselves out of that bottom four position. Fix that small problem, however, and the foundations are certainly there as Mansfield discovered in a more than even first half.
TEAM: Cronin, Salmon (Forshaw 80), Collins, Crooks, Charles, Heeroo, Shulton, West (Wills 34), Welsh (Ginty 75), Thomas, Vieira. Subs: Lamprell, Pooley.