Still unbeaten in 12 and in all away games, Fleet chalk up another win…
Carrying the weight of 11 games without defeat with them, the Fleet aren’t – it seems – about to wilt under the pressure. Another three points courtesy of Calum Willock and Tom Phipps, were wrapped in the first half of a game where the visitors looked comfortable for the majority of the 90 minutes.
With yet another unchanged line-up, the Fleet side are gelling fast and would have been confident of taking something from Clarence Park against a St Albans side yet to win in front of their own supporters. But the home side looked assured enough throughout the first half and started off with intent, Harry Beautyman firing a shot wide on five minutes after a free-kick had caused confusion in the Fleet six-yard box.
Fleet played some good passing football early on but St Albans started to gain the upper hand and were only knocked out of their stride on 17 minutes by a goal against them. A ball to the edge of the box sat up for Calum Willock and the Fleet’s top scorer rifled a volley that may have taken a slight deflection over Paul Bastock.
It took City seven minutes to respond, Sean Shields cutting in from wide and releasing a low shot that bounced off the post. With that let-off, the Fleet set about their task with purpose and twice Ricky Shakes could have extended the lead. First, on 29 minutes, he forced a save from Bastock and Willock could only hit the rebound wide. A minute later, a great move started by Willock saw Michael West charging through from deep and he played the ball off to Shakes who should have done better than curl a shot past the post.
A lull in play allowed the home side to catch their breath and on 34 minutes they got back in the game. Inih Effiong latched on to a long clearance ahead of Clint Easton and managed to get off a shot before Paul Lorraine or Craig Stone could close him down and although Preston Edwards got his hands to it, the ball crept over the line.
Fleet fans cheered themselves up courtesy of some typical banter with the City keeper but their side put the smile back on their faces two minutes before half-time. Winning a free-kick on the right, West floated a good set-piece to the far post and Tom Phipp sent a smart header into the bottom corner of the net.
The second half saw fewer chances but the Fleet looked menacing in the opening period, bossing play without creating anything clear-cut. Willock and Lorraine had headers off target as the visitors pressed but Daish decided to change things, bringing on Joe Howe for Ashley Carew on the hour mark. Highly mobile down the flank and with a good delivery, Howe caught the eye but was unable to spark another goal for the Fleet.
It hardly mattered though as the red shirts were clearly in the ascendancy, restricting St Albans’ best efforts to a late Jean-Michel Sigere chance, the former Fleet striker sending a shot skidding low past the post. That did provoke a flurry of balls into the box from City but Fleet held on and settled again going into the closing minutes. David Deeney cleared a Willock effort from under his bar and Phipp weaved a path through the defence to give West space in the box but his shot was off target.
Four minutes of additional time didn’t trouble the visitors who preserved their away record and extended their unbeaten run to 12 games. The victory keeps Fleet on the edges of the play-off places and more importantly in the short-term takes them to AFC Wimbledon next week in fine heart.
TEAM: Edwards, Stone, Duncan, Carew (Howe 61), Easton, Lorraine, West, Marwa, Willock, Shakes (Williams 78), Phipp (Henry 90). Subs not used: Hagan, Pooley
Ricky Shakes won man of the match with exactly a quarter of the votes against Boreham Wood. Who should win at St Albans. [ VOTE HERE]