The Fleet may well have entered this game with form of their own to show, but it is nothing compared to Northwich’s five wins in their last six games, a statistic they can add another victory to after tonight’s 2-0 scoreline.
Liam Daish travelled north with another altered line-up, bringing in Dean Pooley, Rashid Yussuff, Kezie Ibe and Ricky Shakes but the in-form home side started with confidence and never gave the Fleet time to settle enough to play their usual game. Aaron Burns was quickly in the thick of things on 7 minutes, shooting wide form a corner, and midway through the half Mat Bailey missed a glorious chance, heading Joel Byrom’s corner over the bar as he rose above the Fleet defence.
Lance Cronin saved twice from Luke Joyce and did very well to get a hand to substitute Wayne Riley’s goalbound shot on 36 minutes but the Fleet barely mustered a reply.
Daish brought Chris Henry on at half-time and with his side on the back foot, introduced Giuseppe Sole on the hour mark but before the Fleet’s set-piece specialist could bring any impact to bear, the home side were ahead. The livewire Burns collected the ball on the edge of the box and struck a well-hit volley which came through a crowd of bodies, wrong-footed Cronin and dropped into the net.
Try as they might, the Fleet’s forward movement was all fits and starts, even when they added an extra attacker and the Vics came close to a second on several occasions. Burns again caused problems on 74 minutes, zipping past the Fleet back four and loosing a shot that Cronin did very well indeed to save, while Jamie Mullins and Luke Joyce combined well down the wing only for Joyce’s cross-cum-shot to take a deflection for a corner.
And it was from the wide positions where Northwich created that second goal on 82 minutes. Mullins worked his way into space and supplied Lee Elam who planted a delicate chip into the six-yard box where Jonny Allan gratefully headed home for his fifth goal in as many games.
Sole looked like he might grab a consolation goal at the end but his effort was cleared off the line by Elam who promptly raced forward down the wing and crossed for Allan who should have done better than disturb the side netting with his shot.
Fleet failed to create anywhere near enough fluency to trouble a buoyant home side who on this evidence would surely avoid relegation given another couple of fixtures. For Paul McCarthy, he will be disappointed not to emulate Cronin who kept a clean sheet on his 150th game, a statistic the Fleet skipper celebrated tonight – but given his contribution to clean sheets in recent weeks, it shouldn’t give him any sleepless nights.
As it is, with just three points left to play for, Fleet will now be aiming for 12th spot providing results go their way come Sunday.
TEAM: Cronin, Stevens (Sole 59), Pooley (Henry 46), McCarthy, Ricketts, Yussuff, West, Long, Moore (Purcell 65), Ibe, Shakes. Subs not used: Mott, Springett