Bradley Bubb’s second-half winner returned Fleet to the top of the table – albeit on alphabetical order – as the visitors came away from Twerton Park with their first win in five years.
As ever in Somerset, it was a tough, grinding three points though Fleet had the late luxury of hitting the post in time added on through Anthony Cook.
Cook was the first change in Daryl McMahon’s starting lineup for five games, as he came in for Sean Shields while Mark Phillips displaced Yado Mambo on the bench.
It was a fairly tepid opening though things heated up when George Rigg clattered into Dean Rance and earned a yellow card for his troubles as early as the sixth minute, the same player having gained a caution at Stonebridge Road for a similar challenge on Darren McQueen.
Nick McCootie was lively for the visitors early on but Fleet gradually imposed themselves on midfield. The first decent chance didn’t come until the 15th minute, however, from a promising free-kick position, but Danny Kedwell blasted his effort into the wall. Kedwell had the next chance too when his header was off target from an Andy Drury corner and Bradley Bubb fired wide after a good turn to get past Chas Hemmings but the ball skipped away from him as he shot.
Fleet continued to edge it and Sam Deering set Bubb free for a shot wide before the favour was returned with Deering squeezing between two defenders only to see his effort blocked by goalkeeper Max O’Leary. And shortly before half-time, the goalkeeper was again called into action when he had to tip a Kedwell header over the bar, the Fleet skipper then depositing the corner in the same place moments later.
Bath weren’t without their chances and Bristol City loanee Shaun McCoulsky flashed one across goal while Andy Watkins header at back post might have caused problems had the home side followed up his header. As it was, Nathan Ashmore wasn’t unduly tested and it gave Fleet a platform to build on for the second half.
And the visitors didn’t take too long to go about their job after the restart. Four minutes in, Rigg was inexplicably casual with a back header from an Ashmore goal kick and Bubb’s reaction was swift, racing on to the loose ball and delivering a lob over O’Leary who was completely stranded and could only watch as it hit the target.
Fleet really piled the pressure on for a period after the goal and one corner produced a goalmouth scramble that was cleared while Kedwell planted another over the top.
City won their first corner on 66 minutes and from it McCootie rifled a shot just wide and it heralded a spell of possession for the home side but no real danger for the Fleet. Certainly Ashmore was a lot busier but he claimed the aerial balls well while in front of him, Dave Winfield and Kenny Clark held off the challenge of the Bath strikers.
After a scrappy 20 minutes, the score really could have risen in the closing stages. First Bath carved out their best opportunity as Shaquille Hunter went agonisingly close, a curling hot deflected past the post. Moments later, with time running out, Fleet had a golden opportunity to put the game to bed when Bath’s defence went walkabout and Cook sped into the clear, rounded O’Leary but saw his shot from an angle bounce back off the post. Deering then tried an audacious effort from the halfway line (and he has form for that) with O’Leary out of his goal but the keeper managed to hasten back and clear off the line with his leg.
That was enough to keep the home side at bay and Fleet earned another very important three points at a notoriously difficult venue.
EUFC: Ashmore, Cook, Connors, McCoy, Winfield, Clark, Rance, Drury, Kedwell (Powell 85), Bubb, Deering. Subs: Phillips, Jordan, Shields, McQueen.
BCFC: O’Leary, Rigg, Batten, Hemmings, Welch-Hayes, McCootie, Artus, Murphy, McCootie, Morgan (Diallo 76), McCoulsky (Hunter 85). Subs not used: Marshall, Simpson, Hutchinson