Fleet’s fine form in 2017 continued as they recorded four goals, three more points and another clean sheet to close the gap on Maidenhead United to three points.
A Bradley Bubb brace hauled him alongside Darren McQueen and Jack Powell on seven league goals and it was his crucial goal just before half-time that to all intents broke the Concord backbone.
Daryl McMahon named an unchanged side after Dave Winfield was passed fit despite an injury problem earlier in the week while Concord handed defender Taylor McKenzie a debut and kept danger man Jordan Chiedozie on the bench.
The only talking point in the opening five minutes was a blow to Dean Rance’s head in a challenge that the Fleet bench inferred was deserving of some attention from the referee but it wasn’t much longer before the home side opened the scoring.
On seven minutes, Danny Kedwell floated over a dangerous cross that Concord saw out for a corner. Andy Drury took the set piece and he aimed it at the far post where Kenny Clark rose highest to power a header above goalkeeper Bailey Vose into the top corner.
With Concord having kept the fewest number of clean sheets this season, McMahon must have impressed upon his side the importance for an early goal but the visitors knuckled down and prevented the Fleet from extending that lead.
Drury wasn’t far away with a free-kick that Vose managed to get a hand to but after that, Concord attacked with purpose, utilising the width of midfield to stretch the Fleet. They lost centre back Cameron Norman on 16 minutes but bringing Tony Stokes on seemed to benefit them as he tucked in up front and posed the greatest threat to the Fleet defence.
The Beachboys showed plenty of purpose in the Fleet half but couldn’t find an opening and indeed the home back line was its own worst enemy for a while, giving the ball away several times on the edge of the box but the visitors’ shots were largely off target.
Stokes got to a pass ahead of Marvin McCoy on the half-hour to supply Steve Cawley, who fired over, before the substitute broke swiftly upfield but pulled his shot just wide of the post.
Fleet had a couple of half-chances themselves, Kedwell just failing to connect with a deep Shields cross, Sam Deering miscuing from Bubb’s counterattack and then Winfield just missing the target after a good Drury and Shields combination.
The referee took a dim view of Deering’s next contribution when he went down inside the box before Concord should really have equalised. Winger Dion Sembie-Ferris was allowed a run on goal and he eased a ball inside for Stokes but his shot just cleared the bar.
From Concord’s opportunity at one end came Fleet’s second goal at the other. Two minutes from the break, Kedwell maintained his recent penchant for assists with a low pass into the path of Bubb and the Fleet striker doesn’t miss many from that distance and tucked it away past Vose for 2-0.
The visitors began the second half brightly but again couldn’t breach an uncompromising Fleet back line, with Winfield always first to the aerial challenge and Clark mopping up around him on the ground and Amos Nasha’s dipping shot from distance was their best effort.
The game got a little bogged down in the middle of the park but gradually Fleet started to take control of it. That period, from the hour mark, duly produced a third goal that finished the Beachboys.
On 63 minutes, McMahon must have been grateful that he couldn’t make his intended substitution of Deering as the Fleet midfielder had one more trick up his sleeve. Surging into space down the left flank, he cut into the box, dinked the ball past Vose who pulled him down on the edge of the six-yard box. There were howls for a penalty but the referee played the advantage and from a central position, Shields rifled the ball into the back of the net for his fifth goal of the season.
Tempers flared with 20 minutes left when big midfielder James White – who was once sent off at Stonebridge Road for Dartford – flew into a challenge on Kenny Clark, who saw a yellow card for his retaliation as several players piled in by the touchline.
Fleet introduced Anthony Cook and Darren McQueen and kept possession well in the Concord half, with the visitors only having a Stokes shot that was well handled by Ashmore to show for their efforts. Cook wasn’t far off a goal on 81 minutes when he manoeuvred into space from the corner of the box but Vose palmed his shot behind for a corner.
However, the Fleet substitute had a hand in the fourth goal five minutes later. A patient, passing build-up eventually saw Cook control the ball on the right side of the penalty area. He teased Ben Wyatt with some good footwork and laid a pass inside for Drury who eased beyond a defender, opened up his body and planted the ball right on Bubb’s head, from where it was guided home at close range.
That was that and Fleet wrapped up the points to close the gap at the summit on long-term leaders Maidenhead.
EUFC: Ashmore, Shields (Cook 72), Connors, McCoy, Winfield, Clark, Rance, Drury, Kedwell (McQueen 72), Bubb, Deering (Powell 65). Subs: Mambo, Miles
CRFC: Vose, Girdlestone, Wyatt, Norman (Stokes 16), King, McKenzie, Sembie-Ferris, White, Nasha (Collins 70), Cawley, Della-Verde (Laucys 82); Subs: Topley, Chiedozie