Having kept their unbeaten home record going against Woking on Saturday, Fleet preserved their unbeaten cup record against the Cards with a gutsy, deserved 1-0 win in Surrey.
Kenny Clark’s second-half goal means it’s Fleet who’ll progress to meet Kidderminster Harriers in Round 2 of the Buildbase FA Trophy on January 14th.
And Woking could have few complaints as they were second best to the Fleet for much of the night and on the occasions they did send the visitors back-pedalling, they met a solid wall of blue.
Daryl McMahon opted for a flat back four and it saw Jack Connors come into the defence ahead of Sean Shields, while Danny Kedwell and Darren McQueen replaced Charlie Sheringham and Bradley Bubb up front.
Fleet looked up for it from early on and produced a first-half display that was much better than Saturday’s performance. An Andy Drury cross saw Dave Winfield send a far post header over straight away and 10 minutes in McQueen ghosted through the Woking back line to set up Connors whose shot inside the box was well saved by Brandon Hall.
Woking passed it around neatly in midfield but found even their wide men, who posed more danger on Saturday, well-marshalled by Fleet’s full-backs, with Marvin McCoy responsible for several vital interceptions. The home side’s best effort came on 19 minutes when Jake Caprice waltzed through from the right and struck a low shot that Nathan Ashmore had to dive low to push away.
But that was the sum total of Woking’s attacking endeavour and Fleet looked brighter pushing forward from midfield though Hall was largely untroubled. That said, the former Fleet goalkeeper had to be alert to get a strong hand on Jack Powell’s shot that came back out towards Anthony Cook but it was hacked clear just in time.
And on the half hour it was Cook again who bided his time down the right before finding a gap to goal and he struck a decent shot on target that Hall had to save once again. McQueen then pounced on a cross to head an effort just over before there were strong appeals for a penalty when Joey Jones handled in the box as Fleet closed out the half on top.
Woking made a change at half-time, taking off recently returned skipper Kieran Murtagh but they were forced back by some early Fleet attacking. Cook tried his luck with a dipping effort that looked on target before veering off and his effort on 52 minutes was even better, as he ran into space 10 yards out to whip a firm shot goalwards that Hall turned behind.
From the resulting Powell corner, Woking missed an opportunity at the near post to clear and Clark was on to it in a flash to send a header over the line to give Fleet the lead.
The goal produced more urgency from Woking and Fleet were on occasion a little deep but by and large continued to pose the home side problems. Midfielder Jones sent a couple of rasping shots at Ashmore – and one dreadful one that thundered well wide – while Caprice on the right wing began to create a few opening for his teammates and Gozie Ugwu got an effort on target that Ashmore saved easily.
Sensing his midfield were on the back foot, McMahon introduced Stuart Lewis for Powell 10 minutes from the end. With time ticking away the home crowd were getting increasingly irate every time they deemed Ashmore guilty of lingering over his kicks and in one incident, he saved an effort on the line and was bundled over it to rising noise levels behind the goal.
Caprice was giving Connors a real test down the right but the Fleet full back wasn’t bullied into submission and stood up well to the Woking attacks which were numerous but not particularly effective. Sam Deering saw some late action, on for McQueen, and he was through on goal with four minutes left only to fire his shot at Hall. Lewis got another on target and Cook ran tirelessly to chase down balls and eat up precious time.
With a surprising five minutes of time added on, Fleet played a clever game, pushing out wide and allowing Woking no quarter and when Connors superbly tackled Caprice and then played the ball upfield to safety at the Cards’ final attack, Fleet sensed the win was in the bag.
EUFC: Ashmore, Cook, Connors, McCoy, Winfield, Clark, Rance, Drury, Kedwell, McQueen (Deering 81), Powell (Lewis 79). Subs not used: Sheringham, Bubb, Miles
WFC: Hall, Caprice, Saah, Jones, Yakubu, Shaw, Saraiva, Murtagh (Sutherland 46), Lewis (Edgar 65), Kandi (Sam-Yorke 59), Ugwu. Subs not used: Poke, Thomas