Fleet made it seven straight wins in all competitions as they struck early goals in either half to register only their second victory at the Woodspring Stadium. After the relative comforts of home and the luxury of carefree goalscoring, Daryl McMahon will have been delighted to see the two sides of his team – the continuing impressive forward play and a dogged resilience against an often troublesome home outfit.
McMahon made no changes to the side that beat Havant & Waterlooville 7-0 and though Weston had first sight of goal when Joe McClennan twisted into space and fired off an effort that gave Nathan Ashmore an early test, Fleet made the breakthrough almost immediately.
The game was just six minutes old when Danny Kedwell took over a pass from Jack Connors, cut inside and let fly from outside the box with a shot that whistled beyond Luke Purnell into the bottom corner. It was the perfect platform for the Fleet and they kept a tight rein in midfield, strangling Weston’s attempts to get any fluency through midfield.
However, the home side looked a threat whenever they did break Fleet’s chokehold in midfield and up front Bradley Ash, on loan from Barnsley, was a constant handful and in a one-on-one race for ball as Ash broke from the flanks, Ashmore was grateful to see the ball skip past the post as it went beyond him.
On 34 minutes, Weston had a glorious opportunity to equalise when skipper Dayle Grubb wrestled off the Fleet defence to reach the byline and his cross towards Ash and Jordan Williams was crying out for a touch. Luckily for the visitors, that touch was too heavy and somehow Ash sent the ball rocketing over the bar.
After that scare, Fleet went on the hunt again and McQueen prowled along the box looking for an opening, forcing Purnell into action with one shot, while the home goalkeeper was again on hand to deny Connors who finished off a decent spell of pressure by the Fleet with a low effort.
Given Weston’s growing threat, McMahon would have warned his men to keep their wits about them in the opening encounters of the second half but he needn’t have worried as Fleet simply repeated their first-half heroics. This time it took just four minutes after the whistle and it was the irrepressible McQueen on hand to score his eighth of the season. When Sam Deering slipped a through ball into space, McQueen showed his trademark clean pair of heels to the defenders, moved himself into a shooting position and was able to finish with confidence to put Fleet 2-0 up.
On 55 minutes, the travelling support were up in arms when Ashmore was adjudged by the referee to have gathered a supposed back pass – with many behind fans bearing in mind their own team being denied an even better shout for one against Havant last Saturday. When Weston eventually got round to taking their indirect free kick inside the box – a combination of the referee’s fussiness and their own over-elaborate approach delayed it – Ashmore was equal to it.
Fleet kept the home side, for all their possession, at bay without too strenuous an effort and both McQueen and substitute Dean Rance tested Purnell with shots. Ashmore was still kept busy, however, and though Mark Phillips blocked one drive from Ash, the Fleet keeper did ever so well to thwart substitute Sekani Simpson and then once more when Grubb (who scored two goals past him last season) stuck a foot out to send a shot goalwards.
Fleet responded when Stuart Lewis set substitute Bradley Bubb free but Purnell saved that one and Ashmore had the last involvement at the other end, stretching to turn Kane Ingram’s deflected effort round the post.
So it was another valuable three points and ground made up on Hampton & Richmond Borough, though leaders Maidenhead rained on the parade by coming from behind to gain their own late three points at Welling.
Fleet change tack and travel to Merstham in the FA Cup next Saturday knowing an eighth straight win will see them into the First Round Proper.
EUFC: Ashmore, Cook, Connors, Phillips, Winfield, McCoy, Lewis (Sheringham 90), Deering (Rance 60), Kedwell, McQueen (Bubb 78), Powell. Subs not used: Miles, Boulding
WSMFC: Purnell, Withey, Williams (Cane 66), Kington, Pope, Fortune, McClennan, Ingram, Ash, Grubb, Mullings (Simpson 66). Subs not used: Richards, Meechan, Powell