Jamie Day’s warning about the need to gel quickly will have been ringing in Fleet ears after Sutton’s eight-minute blitz at the beginning of the first half had the visitors reeling in their first game following the week’s transfer activity.
There were debuts for Kelvin Langmead and Matt Fish, while Stuart and Theo Lewis and Danny Kedwell started their first league games, with Adam Cunnington on the bench.
The visitors were quick enough to get forward, with Matt Fish firing over from a decent build-up but any hope that it was a precursor to a Fleet masterclass soon evaporated. It was too easy for Sutton with their first attack of the game on four minutes when they found plenty of space down the left flank (albeit with the aid of a handball) and a cross into Bedsente Gomis was headed home with aplomb.
And they chose the right flank for their second four minutes later when Ricky Wellard advanced into the box, was afforded too much space to cut inside from where he curled a shot around the Fleet defence and out of Preston Edwards’ reach.
Shellshocked, the Fleet took a while to regroup. Joe Howe hit a low shot just wide of the post and Sean Shields looked busy as he tried to get behind the Sutton back line but the visitors were frustrated at every turn. Stuart Lewis carved out the best chance on 27 minutes ending with a ball into the box that Theo Lewis drove against the crossbar.
But Sutton’s confidence was such that the Fleet defence looked disconcerted whenever they came under pressure and Dan Flitchett twice drew saves from Edwards as the gaps opened up in front of him. Langmead also had to thwart Gomis as he raced through from a Wellard pass. Fleet had one more opportunity on the stroke of half-time when Shields’ corner saw Langmead’s effort cleared off the line and eventually scrambled to safety.
That was Shields’ final contribution as Adam Cunnington came on in the second half to partner Kedwell and give Fleet more presence up front. The visitors managed to turn the tide and Sutton were on the back foot for much of the second period, but they coped well with whatever Fleet threw at them.
Marsh and Theo Lewis were the liveliest of the white shirts and the former did well to squeeze through on 51 minutes but he couldn’t quite deliver any power to his shot. The Fleet defence had much less to do as they camped in the Sutton half but Edwards still had to pluck Flitchett’s downward header off the line on 67 minutes.
And two minutes later, Fleet got some good fortune with a rather soft penalty when Theo Lewis was pushed in the box by Jamie Collins (pictuted). Kedwell made no mistake with the spot kick, thundering it down the middle, and Fleet were back in the game.
Yet still Sutton refused to buckle, though when Kedwell and Lewis combined to deliver a cross for Cunnington, his header was as close as the visitors came to an equaliser.
It was a disappointing climax to a wild week for the Fleet, but with a half-new team and work to be done in the coming weeks, it is what it is – just the start.
TEAM: Edwards, Fish, Howe, S Lewis, Langmead, Clark, Marsh, McMahon (Johnson 90), Kedwell, T Lewis, Shields (Cunnington 46). Subs not used: Turner, Pooley, Rance