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Season Review Part 5: November

The onset of November might usually be a time for hunkering down for four months of winter misery but as October made way, Fleet fans were feeling at their most upbeat since the season kicked-off.

Three wins in succession at the end of the previous month and a squad that was beginning to settle with a number of solid additions had seen levels of optimism rise once more.

It was a potentially big month ahead with a host of ex-League sides in Chesterfield, Notts County, Hartlepool United, Stockport County, Barnet and Wrexham providing stiff opposition.

First up were Chesterfield, themselves struggling at the wrong end of the table and a long way from their pre-season billing as one of the title favourites.

Harry Palmer kept his place in the side despite Jordan Holmes recovering from concussion, though Jack King’s fifth yellow card ruled him out. Having shared six goals with Chesterfield in the previous meeting, another four resulted here – two of them scored by Gozie Ugwu against his former employers in a 2-2 draw.

No quarter in midfield as Fleet and Chesterfield battle out a second draw in succession

Immediately following that match, Kevin Watson was confirmed as permanent manager with CEO Dave Archer saying, “It has been an upward curve in the last few matches and that was what we wanted Kevin to achieve coming into the club. He has hit the ground running and we want to give this squad the best chance they can possibly have without disruption at this crucial stage. Kevin has shown he can handle that.”

Charlton loanee sensation Albie Morgan extended his loan before a cup tie he couldn’t play in as Notts County visited in the FA Cup First Round. Josh Payne cracked home an opener that would have graced any of the later rounds but the Magpies followed up with an equaliser that might have benefitted from goalline technology before nosing in front on the hour mark.

A spirited response saw Ugwu’s goal and penalty streak continue as he converted an 89th minute spot-kick equaliser but in dramatic fashion, County avoided a replay with a goal deep into stoppage time and having won at Sutton at the death a few weeks earlier, Fleet fans suffered a reverse sinking feeling as they were cruelly dumped out of the Cup.

Fleet piled the pressure on late in this FA Cup tie

Home form continued to be an issue as Fleet returned to National League action against Hartlepool United and should have been dead and buried as Pools raced into a 2-0 first-half lead, Josh Umerah also seeing red to leave Watson’s men with Mission Impossible.

Yet somehow the 10 men clawed it back, inspired by two-goal hero Myles Weston whose virtuoso performance was crowned by an inswinging free-kick that eluded everyone on its way into the net for an equaliser.

Home to Hartlepool – or the Myles Weston Show as it became

A similar free-kick, however, undid the Fleet in the next game when Tomi Adeloye’s first goal for the club looked set to give Watson’s side an unlikely three points in a backs-to-the-wall performance at Stockport – but with 92 minutes up, County clinched a point with a set-piece that floated home.

An undoubted blow to Watson’s plans was the recall from loan of Morgan just prior to that game and with the added disappointment of Stockport’s late equaliser, morale was once again low after the visit to Barnet.

In poor form and having already lost 3-0 at the Kuflink Stadium, Barnet could have been there for the taking but instead steamrollered the Fleet to leave us rock-bottom of the table. Yet we were in contention for almost an hour having twice equalised, only to fall apart moments after Ugwu’s goal to make it 2-2 and the Bees romped home to add three more of their own.

“It’s a kick up the backside,” said the manager. “We now need to bounce back immediately. What’s been said in the dressing room will remain there but I will expect a reaction.”

One against four – Tomi Adeloye leads Wrexham a merry dance

And he got one as Fleet prevailed in a crucial six-pointer as we faced Wrexham for the second time. All square at 1-1 going into the break, it was that man Weston whose solo run and low drive across goal into the far corner saw the home sections erupt in delight. And this time there was no late goal at the other end to dampen the fighting spirit, Wrexham suffering their third defeat in three seasons in North Kent.

“These boys are with me, I’ve got a lot of belief in them because of what they’ve done for me over the last few weeks but sometimes losing is a bit of a reality check to tell us all where we are and we’ve got to work even harder…”

MANAGER KEVIN WATSON

HIGHLIGHT OF THE MONTH: The comeback draw at home to Hartlepool was a huge achievement but the roar that greeted Myles Weston’s winner against Wrexham and the three points it signified was a major moment in the season.

LOW POINT OF THE MONTH: Everything at The Hive went against the Fleet – and having got back to 2-2, a self-inflicted mistake led to a deluge of Barnet goals. On the same night, Chorley gained an unlikely point at Barrow and after the good work of October, we were stuck to the bottom of the table.

THE STATE OF PLAY: As in August, September and October, once again we finished the month in 23rd, the win over Wrexham seeing us leapfrog the Welsh side. Chorley and Chesterfield were immediately above us while the gap to safety, where Sutton sat in 20th place, remained at three points.

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