Fleet ended their recent run of winless games with a comfortable enough victory at bottom club Staines Town, though the Swans certainly showed enough mettle to suggest their place at the foot of the table shouldn’t last too long.
In unseasonally warm sunshine for the first game of November, Steve Brown made two changes to his side with Billy Bricknell making way for Matt Godden while Joe Howe returned after suspension in place of Chris Sessegnon.
Fleet were initially sluggish as Staines set about their task with determination, spraying the ball nicely around the Wheatsheaf Park pitch and Ashley Lodge fired one just over the bar after only three minutes. And five minutes after that Staines went even closer when a ball through the middle saw the Fleet defence cut wide open and ex-Stonebridge Road favourite Calum Willock crashed a shot off the underside of the bar.
That served as a wake-up call and Fleet began to get in gear. Anthony Cook dropped his shoulder to take him past a defender and his shot was blocked on the edge of the area, eventually falling for Daryl McMahon whose low effort didn’t present goalkeeper Jack Turner with too much trouble. Cook then played a short corner to Godden who whipped in a good low ball that was scrambled clear in the six-yard box.
Fleet kept plugging away and Cook’s free-kick from the edge of the box was whipped in with such pace that Turner could only divert it along his line and Chris M’Boungou just about got in Matt Johnson’s way as he raced in for the rebound.
Staines came back as the impressive Lodge played Stephane Ngamvoulou in for an effort that was just over the bar. But Fleet got the goal they clearly needed on 25 minutes when a long ball was helped into the path of Cook by Charlie Sheringham. Cook found an extra yard of pace to burst into the box ahead of the covering defenders and despatch a shot past Turner to give his side the lead.
Fleet then had a muted penalty claim when Cook flicked a clever ball into Godden’s path and he was flattened as he went to take it under control, but the referee was well placed and waved play on. More chances came Fleet’s way just past the half-hour mark. Jerel Ifil did well to twice get in the way of Godden’s goalbound shot after a cross from McMahon and from the skipper’s corner, Anthony Acheampong sent a header skimming not far over the bar.
Staines weren’t taking it lying down, however, and Joe Aribo got free down the right to send a low cross into Willock that would surely have seen him score but for Howe’s sliding clearance on the goalline.
That was Willock’s final contribution as he was replaced for the second half by Danny Bassett and he had a chance eight minutes in when he took advantage of a flat-footed Fleet defence to test Brandon Hall from 15 yards. But it was a slow start to the second period, livened up on 55 minutes when Godden broke into the area striving to bring down a high ball. Instead Turner came rushing out and though fully entitled to make the challenge, he clattered into Godden and the referee awarded a penalty, cautioning the Staines goalkeeper.
After the Fleet’s previous penalty miss, it was skipper McMahon who took responsibility for this one, firing a low, hard kick to the keeper’s left. Turner wasn’t far away but McMahon kept it just out of his reach to make it 2-0.
That goal relaxed the visitors and they enjoyed a decent spell. Johnson found himself in the clear 12 yards out but crashed his shot at Turner and Cook’s acrobatic and audacious attempt from the loose ball was cleared off the line by M’Boungou. On 70 minutes substitute Bricknell, on for Godden, skilfully carved out an opportunity for Johnson to run on to but Turner again denied the Fleet No.7 and then McMahon sent a free kick narrowly wide.
Staines kept at their task and upped their game once more in the closing period. Lodge embarked on a mazy run through the Fleet midfield and rifled a shot through a ruck of players that Hall only just got one hand on to turn the ball behind for a corner. Aribo then headed Max Worsfold’s cross just past the upright.
Though Fleet seemed content with their two-goal lead, they could have extended it in the final minute when Bricknell gathered a long ball forward and smashed a shot that rattled the crossbar. The only concern after that was Dean Rance departing with a slight knock late on but his side stayed the course to take an important three points and climb to a season’s high of third in the table.
Team: Hall, Howe, Palmer, McMahon, Acheampong, Clark, Johnson (Corcoran), Rance (Sessegnon), Sheringham, Godden (Bricknell), Cook. Subs not used: Edwards, Huke