Fleet earned maximum league points from a tough January schedule by being only the second side to beat Poole Town at the newly renamed BlackGold Stadium in 2016/17.
Goals in either half separated the sides second v third in the table and Fleet deserved the win with a solid, disciplined performance against a tidy Poole side who played some decent football but failed to fashion too many chances against a stubborn blue line in defence.
Daryl McMahon opted for the side that finished the game against Chelmsford, so that meant that Bradley Bubb replaced Darren McQueen while Andy Drury was in for Jack Powell.
On a wide pitch, both sides made the most of the extra room across the middle with the game switching from one end to the other in the opening stages. With a slight slope to the pitch, Fleet opted to kick down it in the first half and Bubb was the first to register a shot, firing Drury’s through ball over the bar.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between, however, and Poole responded with some good work down both flanks as they looked to get in behind the Fleet defence. Luke Roberts was the only one to succeed and his 10th-minute shot was carefully watched by Nathan Ashmore as it skipped just wide of the post.
There was good football from both sides and in one fine build-up, Drury and Sam Deering combined well, with Bubb supplying Danny Kedwell but it was another shot off target.
Led by Deering’s willingness to look for a pass down the right, Fleet gradually became the more purposeful of the two sides in attack and Shaun Cooper saw the first of many yellows from referee Laver when he clattered into Sean Shields on the wing. As ever, Deering was busy and keen to impress, with one rasping shot just clearing the bar on 20 minutes.
Poole were by no means second-best, however, and tricky winger Abdulai Baggie was given too much room to cut in from the left to pick out Luke Burbidge whose shot was powerful and on target but Ashmore got down very well to stop it. Deering got the reward for his persistence on the half-hour mark. Having just been booked in an incident inside the box with Will Spetch, which saw several players exchange a few frank views, Deering was on the end of a decent move. A quick foray in midfield saw Kedwell gather the ball in the centre and lay off a superb pass out to the onrushing Deering who advanced past the defender and stroked a low shot past Nick Hutchings into the corner from 12 yards.
The referee, who otherwise allowed the game to flow, continued to issue yellow cards in a rather carefree manner and it seemed Kenny Clark received a booking for an infringement that Dave Winfield committed as he body-checked Marvin Brooks on the edge of the box. And Winfield breathed another sigh of relief moments later when he collided with Ashmore as the two went to close down Brooks but Baggie wasted the chance to exploit the mishap.
A slow start to the second period saw Poole go about their task with renewed vigour that kept Fleet at bay but it was the visitors who killed the game off early. Ten minutes after the restart, Bubb worked his way clear of the Poole defence on the right and though his cross was too high for Kedwell and seemingly not much of a threat, it landed perfectly for Drury in space. The Fleet midfielder caught the ball superbly and kept it low in clinical fashion to leave Hutchings with little chance.
It was Drury’s first goal since his return and his experience was vital over the remaining 35 minutes as Fleet defended from the midfield line to leave Poole with little room to attack. And it wasn’t for the want of trying on behalf of the home side who pinged the ball about well and had plenty of possession but found hard-working Fleet just too resolute. They earned a couple of corners but Ashmore commanded his box well, gathering the ball on two occasions and punching clear on another.
Jack Connors and Sean Shields linked well down the left for the Fleet while on the other flank, McCoy got forwards on numerous enough occasions to keep the threat of Baggie to a minimum. It didn’t come without a cost for the Fleet who had Dean Rance, Drury and Winfield yellow-carded. Winfield’s caution, in particular, produced Poole’s best chance with his foul on Burbidge right on the edge of the box. From the resulting free-kick, Sean Devlin’s shot cannoned off the wall and the home side’s appeals for handball were vociferous and prolonged.
Poole’s attempts got more desperate as they fired long balls that Clark and Winfield gobbled straight up but, having seen their only striker Roberts depart just after the restart, they had no outlet and Fleet were able to manage the game to its most satisfactory conclusion.
EUFC: Ashmore, Shields, Connors, McCoy, Winfield, Clark, Rance, Drury, Kedwell, Bubb (Cook 71), Deering (Powell 79). Subs not used: Miles, Mambo, McQueen
PTFC: Hutchings , Cooper (Moore 59), Smeeton, Spetch, Whisken, Pettefer, Burbidge, Devlin, Roberts (Wakefield 47), Brooks, Baggie. Subs not used: Rees, Gale, Wright