Fleet supporters continued to travel in numbers despite this game having nothing at all riding on it but, in the spring sunshine, it was a defeat that typified much of their side’s season as St Albans City protected a 20th-minute goal with relative ease.
The lineup reverted to the norm after the few changes at Bath so back in came Brandon Hall, Matt Fish and Danny Kedwell, while Matt Johnson also earned a start at the expense of Theo Lewis.
Despite the distinct end-of-season feel, Fleet started brightly enough and Danny Kedwell sent a shot just over on nine minutes. Kedwell then nodded a ball into Adam Cunnington’s path and, with his back to goal, the striker sent a kick over his head that again just cleared the bar.
But the game turned on 20 minutes, just as Fleet saw their best chance go begging. Johnson supplied Matt Godden who raced from the halfway line and past a static home defence but he just couldn’t get enough power in his shot and former Fleet goalkeeper Joe Welch smothered it.
From his clearance, the home side – who until then only had an off-target Jo N’Guessan shot to show for their efforts – were ahead. Lee Chappell drove a low shot through a crowd of bodies that Hall saved, and the Fleet keeper then did well to stop Jack Green’s follow-up, but his defenders were less alert and Green was allowed to fire home another rebound.
Fleet almost equalised with their very next foray upfield and Luke Rooney threaded a superb through ball to the feet of Godden but he was outmuscled by James Comley. Stuart Lewis then saw yellow for a lunge on Sam Corcoran, who reacted angrily to the challenge as tempers threatened momentarily to boil over.
Johnson and Cunnington then saw two shots clear the crossbar as Fleet lacked the necessary energy to trouble the St Albans back line.
And that was the script for the second half as the home side kept Fleet at bay, with few chances of note in a game that petered out long before the final whistle. Johnson managed to swing in a dangerous cross on 54 minutes that Kedwell dived towards inside the six-yard box. He felt he was pushed but the referee thought otherwise.
A double substitution brought Michael West and Sean Shields into the action and though the latter got wide a couple of times and prowled the touchline energetically, he couldn’t add much to Fleet’s laboured efforts. Lewis had one decent low shot turned wide by a stretching Welch and Kedwell saw a header cleared from the six-yard box but that was about it for the visitors.
It could have been worse, however, seven minutes from time when Green rampaged upfield and centred for ex-Fleet loanee Simon Thomas but he dallied on the ball and Anthony Achempong cleared. And in time added on, St Albans were sure they’d netted a freak second goal. From a routine back pass, Hall made to clear but only half caught the ball and it ricocheted off a Fleet player, hit substitute John Frendo and bobbled back over the line – but the visitors were saved embarrassment by the assistant referee’s flag.
TEAM: Hall, Fish, Palmer, Johnson, Acheampong, Bonner, Godden (Shields 61), S Lewis, Kedwell, Cunnington, Rooney (West 61). Subs not used: Turner, Clark, Marsh