Fleet were undone at home for the second league game in succession as a resilient Wealdstone gave them too much work to do, having gone ahead on three occasions, the final time proving too much for the home side.
There was one change for the Fleet, with Jordan Parkes making way for Dean Rance, while substitute Charlie Sheringham returned to the squad for the first time since December last year.
The game was barely two minutes old when Wealdstone got a dream start. Matty Harriott, whose signing was only announced this morning, scored with what must have been his first touch for the Stones… and what a touch it was. Fleet failed to clear their lines and the ball sat up for Harriott on the corner of the box. He took one clean swipe at it and it sailed through the home defence, clipping the underside of the bar and going in, leaving Brandon Hall a mere spectator.
That setback could have been even worse minutes later for the Fleet when they got in all sorts of bother. Bradley Hudson-Odoi got clear of the defence and Hall was far too exposed but managed to claw the ball away from him, before recovering to also get in the way of Jefferson Louis’ follow-up effort.
Having survived that scare, Fleet settled into their familiar ball-keeping pattern and started to push the Stones back into their own half. Danny Haynes’ ninth minute burst down the left saw a cross into Stuart Lewis who opted for precision rather than power and sent a shot over the bar. Two minutes later and Fleet had what appeared to be an equaliser when a back pass put the Stones defence in trouble, Kedwell ran on to it, shrugged off the defender and goalkeeper North to steer the ball home but the referee, behind play, claimed a foul in the build-up. Fleet were incensed but the referee was unmoved.
The visitors only shut the home side out for a further four minutes, however. As Fleet kept up the pressure on the Wealdstone goal, Joe Howe’s cross from the left was met by the head of Haynes who directed a header away from North and into the top corner.
The Stones’ defence were kept on their toes as Fleet looked to build on their goal. Matt Fish played a through ball to John-Paul Kissock who rather fell into the pass but managed to rifle a shot just wide, while Haynes continued to torment, beating three men in one run down the flank. Lewis and Kissock again sent shots wide while Kedwell floated an effort from an angle that North had to tip away for a corner.
The Stones were picking up a fair share of cautions and left back Dale Binns, who was getting twisted and turned by Haynes, was substituted after picking up a card 10 minutes from half-time.
Home fans were expecting their side to step up another gear before half-time but it was the visitors who grasped the nettle going into the break. First, the ever-dangerous Hudson-Odoi got behind the Fleet defence to go one-on-one with Hall who did very well to block at his feet. But that lesson wasn’t learned and Fleet gave away a needless second goal on 44 minutes. Hudson-Odoi again tried to outmuscle Clark who managed to nick in ahead of him but he got a shot away that Hall appeared to have gathered. As the ball ran loose, however, Louis squared it to the far post where three yellow shirts were lurking, one of them Harriott who added to his dream debut with a second goal.
That could have seen Fleet’s exuberance extinguished but a quick equaliser in the second half had the home fans bouncing again. The equaliser should, in fact, have come on 47 minutes when Haynes let fly with a shot that seemed to hit a leg and the post before flying out to Godden whose rebound was deflected behind for a corner. From that, Fleet were back in it, the ball sent in high to Godden who headed it past North for 2-2.
There was expectation in the air at Stonebridge Road and Fleet duly obliged… for a time. Haynes hooked a shot from an angle at the far post that North put behind for another corner while the goalkeeper had to push away another very well-taken effort courtesy of Howe. Fleet’s luck in front of goal certainly wasn’t improving, however, and on the hour mark Kissock’s low drive from 20 yards looked to be sailing in but it hit the foot of the post, rolled along the line behind North and was scrambled clear.
But the visitors, far from shutting up shop like so many other sides at Stonebridge Road this season, kept probing and Hudson-Odoi had too much room down the left to stretch the Fleet rearguard. Ironically, Wealdstone’s winner came when he had switched flanks with Shaun Lucien, who set up the goal on 64 minutes. Lucien got the better of Fish on the byline and crossed low along the six-yard box where the Fleet defence watched the ball speed past onto the foot of Louis who converted at the far post.
There was a sense that a third goal might prove too much for the Fleet forwards to recover and so it proved as the home side ran out of ideas in the final 25 minutes. Parkes and Sheringham were sent into action but the best Fleet mustered was another of Kedwell’s fierce, driven free kicks that flew past the post. There were six minutes of time added on and Fleet had another two chances from free-kicks that came to nothing but having given themselves the proverbial mountain to climb by conceding three times, it all proved too much.
A home clash against second-placed Oxford City next Saturday now takes on added importance and Fleet must address their recent home woes to prevail in that one
EUFC: Hall, Fish, Howe, S Lewis (Parkes 67), Clark, Bonner, Kissock, Rance, Kedwell, Godden, Haynes (Sheringham 74). Subs not used: Miles, Acheampong, West.
WFC: North, McLeod-Urquhart, Binns (Duffy 35), Parker, Hamblin, Corcoran, Lucien (Hutchinson 83), Harriott (Ball 71), Louis, Davies, Hudson-Odoi.