Hartley Wintney 2 Fleet Town 0
It was a Thursday night hop, the short distance to our neighbours and friends of Hartley Wintney for this Evo-Stik South, East Division, League Fixture, as our hosts were looking to consolidate their place in the play offs, or even an automatic promotion place.
From an even start, it was soon Hartley winning more of the ball, the first dangerous cross played in by Steve Duff, but safely collected by the Fleet Keeper Liam Beach. When Fleet got a chance from nothing, Matt Bunyan snatched at it and the ball sailed high over the bar. A fine move from Hartley saw Steve Duff collect the ball out wide, crossed to Nick Hutchings and Dudd cut in to collect the return forcing Billy Stratford to put the ball behind for a corner. After 18 minutes Hartley got the goal they had been looking for when after appliying pressure the ball came back to Jake Baxter on the edge of the box, to fire the ball in through a crowded area. The game settled down after this with close chances at a premium, after half an hour, Fleet came close, from a corner kick, a Fleet head rose in the middle of the box and only a spectacular tip over from the home keeper Paul Strudley denied Fleet the equaliser. Soon Hartley Wintney had a golden chance of their own as a cross found Nic Ciardini unmarked on the six yard line, but Nic managed to guide his header wide of the goal, Fleet went into the break only the one goal down, not disgraced but not quite doing enough.
Fleet made two changes for the second half, bringing on Danilo Cadete and Ryan Marklew. Fleet pressed for the way back into the game and on 50 minutes they thought they had it when with a crowd of players around the ball it was put into the net, seemingly only after the celebrations started the assistant on the far side was standing there with his flag up, claiming to have seen an offside, the referee went over to check before giving the offside decision. A minute later, a quick break upfield from Hartley, a one on one and the Hartley player fies home, only to be stopped in his tracks when the other assistant was flagging for offside, the home side claimed the ball was played through off a Fleet player so he could not have been offside, again the referee came over to check with his assistant before upholding the offside decision. This made Hartley more determined and a lot of pressure followed, but they carved out very few chances, just giving Liam more catching practise. After 75 minutes, Jake Baxter was through for Hartley but in stretching for the ball only skied it over from one yard and collided with Liam Beach, Baxter was not able to continue and Hartley made their first change at the same time Fleet made their third bringing Chris Wales into the frey. Immediately Fleet were winning more of the ball, with Ashley Lloyd released to be further forward, it was Lloyd who hit a fine shot, bringing the save from Strudley. But after 80 minutes, a Hartley corner was hit over to the far side of the box, Jack Ball ran from left midfield up to the box to reach it and fired it home for Hartley’s second of the night. Fleet had another good spell, several free kicks from defensive positions, taken by Liam Beach or Callum Abraham-Barlow, played forward but almost every time it was Liam Eagle rising above Bunyan and Purdy to head the ball out. Fleet kept going to the death and in added time a chance for Danilo Cadete is blocked, Danilo gets the ball back and finds Chris Wales, whose effort is also blocked.
With four of the other top sides playing and winning Thursday night it is still very tight in and around the promotion places, but with some of them playing each other on Saturday, that could be the decisive day for some clubs, as we close in on the end of season.
Fleet Town : 1 Liam Beach, 2 Billy Stratford, 3 Callum Abraham-Barlow, 4 Ashley Lloyd, 5 Owen Roberts, 6 Chris Musgrove, 7 Ross Ewen, 8 Matt Bunyan, 9 Graeme Purdy, 10 Bradley Wilson, 11 James Haworth
Subs : 12 Chris Wales (on for Ewen 75 mins), 15 Ryan Marklew (on for Wilson half time), 16 Danilo Cadete (on for Haworth half time)
not used 14 Billy Oram, 17 Jordan Aghatise.