Braintree, masters of the late winner in pre-season, did it again as they struck eight minutes from time to condemn Daryl McMahon’s side to their second summer reverse.
In warm conditions, Fleet just about shaded the first half over their National League opponents. The home side started with Danny Haynes on the wing once again, with Kenny Clark partnering Tom Bonner at the back.
Fleet had the first chance when a decent delivery from a corner saw Bonner back-heel the ball into Adam Cunnington’s path and he got a foot on it but goalkeeper Will Norris blocked it on the line.
Braintree had a couple of chances as they forced the Fleet defence into a rearguard action, but Dan Sparkes blasted the best of them over the bar.
Jordan Parkes threatened when he was put through on nine minutes by John Paul Kissock but Norris was out quickly to thwart him.
Fleet’s best opportunity came on 18 minutes when a free kick found Cunnington lurking on the edge of the box and he sidestepped the defender to send a vicious shot clattering off the crossbar. Fleet remained the more likely to score and goalkeeper Norris again saved the visitors, beating Haynes to the rebound after spilling an initial shot from Matt Fish. He then made another save as Haynes powered along the far byline and into the six-yard box.
The ex-Ipswich winger, along with Sean Shields, sent in a decent supply of crosses but nobody got on the end to unduly trouble Norris.
The first-half had a good pace to it, with Braintree quick to break and Fleet’s defence standing up well on the occasions they did.
But the second period was dormant, with neither side seeking to up the tempo. Substitute Danny Kedwell showed some good touches as Fleet began the half well, with Parkes’ effort bouncing off the unaware goalkeeper’s chest, but the home side’s forward movement dried up and Braintree started to take the initiative.
As the game entered its final phase, the visitors had a few chances, with standout player Sparkes wriggling through the Fleet defence and beating Hall but Joe Howe was on hand to clear. Simeon Akinola then flashed a shot inches wide before substitute and trialist Wilson Carvalho – once a teammate of Parkes’ at Hemel Hempstead – saw a gap in the bottom corner and hit a good low shot away from Hall’s grasp.
Bonner had a chance to equalise with a header from a corner that Norris gathered but Fleet couldn’t muster another forward motion.
TEAM: Hall, Fish, Howe, Rance, Clark, Bonner, Haynes (Godden 46), Parkes, Cunnington (Kedwell 46), Kissock, Shields (Willmott 46). Subs not used: Miles, Acheampong, Johnson, Braham-Barrett, Miller-Neave, Osborn