Fleet equalled their highest ever opening-day victory (last achieved in 1974/75) with a comprehensive 4-0 win over newly promoted Poole Town this afternoon to blow away any cobwebs from last season’s disappointment.
With four debutants in the side, and Danny Kedwell named as new club captain, Fleet swept a tricky pre-season behind them and put Poole to the sword in the second half.. Jack Connors, Dave Winfield, Darren McQueen and Jack Powell made their full debuts while Reiss Greenidge turned out for his home debut as Fleet played three defenders across the back line and two wing backs.
The opening exchanges were fairly timid, with Poole showing a willingness to attack and their left winger Abdulai Baggie in particular giving Shields a hard time. The visitors had the first sight of goal, Jamie Whisken striking from a central position after Baggie had tricked his way into the box and pulled back a ball for the Poole skipper to run on to.
But Fleet nosed ahead on eight minutes when Jordan Parkes saw his shot charged down in the box and the ball ran free to Dean Rance lurking outside the box who swept home a delightful shot past Nick Hutchings to put his side in the driving seat.
The early goal gave Fleet some impetus but the visitors kept up the pressure. A Poole corner was headed down and just past the post by Marvin Brooks and the same player was only eight yards from goal when Winfield crumpled him with a vital challenge. The tackle saw Brooks depart injured but Baggie kept the Poole forward line supplied.
Rance had another effort off target and Parkes saw a shot well held by Hutchings as neither side could quite grab the game by the scruff of the neck. On 23 minutes, substitute Lee Wort saw his tame effort saved by former teammate Nathan Ashmore but he really should have done better with it as Fleet continued to be a little exposed on the flanks.
The first half petered out without any more chances of note and Daryl McMahon shored up his wide areas at half-time, sacrificing Greenidge who was on a booking for Matt Fish. Fleet were more accomplished in the second half and went further ahead inside the opening four minutes. From a central position, Powell spotted the run of Kedwell and played an excellent through ball beyond the Poole defence. Kedwell held off his marker to despatch a fine shot beyond Hutchings and it was 2-0.
The early goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Dolphins whose attacks grew fewer in number. Fleet should have made it three on 52 minutes when Powell again supplied the delivery, low into the six-yard box, and McQueen slid in to no avail before Kedwell’s shot was turned against the post and behind for a corner.
Cook replaced McQueen on the hour mark and was unfortunate not to add his name to the scoresheet when another intricate Powell pass set him free to score, but the flag was up in a very borderline decision.
But on 67 minutes, Cook played a crucial role in the third goal. Haring down the left wing, he delivered an inch-perfect cross for Kedwell to finish from close range for his second of the game.
And 10 minutes later, Fleet made it 4-0. Cook won the free-kick 20 yards out on the left. It was Powell who stepped up to deliver another fine set piece, and this one curled into the corner of the goal to leave Poole despondent.
Kedwell had a late chance to add a fifth, his low effort deflected behind but Fleet were more than happy to take the 4-0 win and, early though it is, top spot in the league table also.
EUFC: Ashmore, Shields, Connors, Greenidge (Fish 46), Clark, Winfield, Rance, Parkes (Kissock 67), Kedwell, McQueen (Cook 60), Powell. Subs not used: Miles, Deering
PTFC: Hutchings, Lindsay, Case, Spetch, Whisken, Pettefer, Burbidge, Devlin, Roberts (Zancetta 72), Brooks (Wort 22), Baggie (Gillespie 72) . Sub not used: Rees, Davis