Fleet fell to their first defeat of the season as an early goal proved the difference for Whitehawk. Matt Godden and Billy Bricknell both hit the woodwork for the visitors, but they could find no way through in a frustrating afternoon’s football at The Enclosed Ground.
There were no changes to Steve Brown’s side as they sought to build on an impressive start to the season. But the start to the match wasn’t good and within two minutes, Whitehawk should have scored when Danny Mills swept a ball into the six-yard box and Sergio Torres poked a foot at it, Preston Edwards getting down on his line to block and see the ball spin to safety.
After that early setback, Fleet looked momentarily bright and they gave the Hawks a few problems down the right, without delivering a telling final ball. But with 13 minutes on the clock, Whitehawk were ahead. Kenny Clark conceded a free-kick on the home side’s right flank and Sam Deering hoisted one into the box where Osei Sankofa rose highest to head it home.
Fleet’s response didn’t quite materialise. Godden’s running promised much but the Fleet midfield couldn’t deliver for the striker and he and Charlie Sheringham were starved of service. Whitehawk seemed content to nullify Fleet’s middle four and neither side mustered much going forward until Serge Makofo forced Daryl McMahon to clear a shot from the edge of the six-yard box.
Seconds later Makofo should have scored. Deering crossed from the right and as Edwards advanced into no man’s land, the big No.9 somehow headed the chance well over the bar with the goal at his mercy. Sankofa then had the ball in the net again but it was ruled out for offside as Fleet found the front pairing of Danny Mills and Makofo hard to deal with.
At the other end, Fleet finally showed some guile in the final third, when Godden outmuscled Paul Lorraine on the byline and got in a decent cross but Tom Cadmore was able to clear with no Fleet foot on the end of the delivery. On 37 minutes Godden again got into a decent position and provided a cross for Sheringham but he could do no more than head over, under pressure from Lorraine. And on the stroke of half-time, it was Godden again. Cook and Alex Osborn combined well and with the Hawks defence momentarily caught out, Godden raced clear, lobbed John Sullivan in the home goal but saw his effort bounce off the upright.
Any hopes the second half would spring into life proved unfounded as Whitehawk, led by the impressive Torres and Deering, cancelled out Fleet’s midfield. Torres in particular was everywhere, getting a foot in on the edge of the box to disrupt attacks, and leading the home side’s counterattacking. It took until the hour mark for Fleet to step things up and Anthony Cook delivered a wonderful through ball onto Sheringham’s head, but again the chance went over.
Cook then almost caught the home defence napping with a quickly-taken free-kick 30 yards out and he fired it into the penalty area where Osborn just failed to connect and Sullivan cleared the danger. It was better football from the Fleet, but still with no end product and Brown went 4-3-3 with Bricknell replacing Osborn with 20 minutes left.
Whitehawk weren’t finished, though, and Lorraine skied a shot from a corner before Torres weaved inside four Fleet players and supplied Mills but his shot was deflected behind. Matt Johnson’s introduction briefly enlivened midfield and in time added on there was one more chance. Bricknell turned his marker on the edge of the box and made room for a shot that beat Sullivan but hit the foot of the post.
That summed up Fleet’s day perfectly and though the referee played plenty of extra time, Fleet could do nothing more. The team will need a response against Wealdstone on Monday as they saw Whitehawk move level on points after today’s reverse.
TEAM: Edwards, Sessegnon, Palmer, McMahon (Johnson 82), Acheampong, Clark, Osborn (Bricknell 75), Corcoran, Sheringham, Godden, Cook. Subs: Hall, Fraser, Huke.