Barnstaple Town 4 Fleet Town 1
Fleet Town traveled to North Devon for this vital bottom of the table clash with Barnstaple, without some of their more experienced players, missing through injury or pre-booked personal events that clashed with this important game. In the end it was the home side that took the spoils and saw Barnsatple leap frog Fleet and send them back to the bottom of the table, in a game where the conditions of Rain and strong wind was the controlling factor.
Fleet were defending the first half with the wind and rain in their faces, Barnstaple surged forward and tested the Fleet defence at every opening, in the difficult conditions, when the home side were given a free kick after 7 minutes, Steve Reed tried his luck from 30 yards, bringing a save from keeper James Stroud, who joined the club this week from Farnborough, he dived to palm the ball over the bar and give Barnstaple their 5th corner of the game. After ten minutes the home side took the lead when Jack Rice-Lethary reacted fastest to snap up a short clearance as Fleet tried to clear a dangerous cross. The home side were forced into an early change as player manager Aaron Harper-Penman injured in the build up to the opening goal reluctantly was forced to take himself off. After twenty minutes, Barnstaple doubled their lead, a goal kick taken by James Stroud was caught by the head wind and although the ball was reaching half way in the air, it was blown back close to Fleet’s area and fell to Harry Stevens who was able to control the ball and slide it past Stroud. Barnstaple soon had another chance when Jack Langford won the ball in the Fleet box, but he fired wide, the home side did not have to wait long to extend their lead, a hopeful ball hit through into space behind Fleet’s back line and Saddam Bello beat James Stroud to the ball and slid the ball past Stroud to make it 3-0 after thirty minutes. Fleet were finally finding their feet in the difficult conditions with Layton Avenell getting forward to cross the ball into the home box, but comfortably dealt with by the home defence and cleared. When he burst through the middle, Jack Selby took a shot from distance but caught by the wind, it was blown sideways for a throw in.
Fleet brought on Lewis Plackett at half time, but within thirty seconds of the restart were forced into another change, another new player, Joshua Plaize-Carr went down being unable to run off and aggravated a knock picked up just before half time. The home side were handling the wind problems better than Fleet did in the first half, but as the wind gusted and fell away, it was still a lottery if a kick would sail over halfway or be blown back towards the box. Fleet were getting more of the ball and forced some corners, it was one of these on 65 minutes, that forced a goal back, lost by keeper Steve Oliver, under pressure from three Fleet players, it was Ronan Silva who got the touch to get the ball over the line. Steve Oliver more than made up for his slip a few minutes later when he tipped over an Eoin Kirwan free kick, another goal then could have changed the way the game would unfold. When the home side burst upfield Harry Stevens and Saddam Bello both got shots in but blocked by James Stroud. Then fifteen minutes from the end the game was killed off when Jack Langford had his shot blocked, the ball ran to Harry Stevens who made no mistake and scored again to seal the vital win. Fleet made their final change bringing on coach and regular bench warmer Chris Neate for his debut, as the home side made two late changes to bolster their defence and sat back letting Fleet come on to them and it needed another save at the expense of another corner by Steve Oliver to deny Harryson Wickens.
A long coach journey gave time to reflect on the events of the afternoon and turn thoughts to next weekend when play off contenders Cirencester Town visit Calthorpe Park, as a special treat to the people of Fleet, the club are offering free entry to all for the Cirencester match.
Fleet Town : 1 James Stroud, 2 Layton Avenell, 3 Callum Abraham-Barlow, 4 William Boye, 5 Cavan Atkinson, 6 Ronan Silva, 7 Kieran Ngale-Kelly, 8 Sam Williams, 9 Joshua Plaize-Carr, 10 Jack Selby, 11 Harryson Wickens.
subs : 12 Lewis Plackett (on for S. Williams 45 mins), 14 Eoin Kirwan(on for Plaize-Carr 46 mins), 15 Chris Neate (on for Avenell 80 mins)