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Fleet fight but pay the Pryce

Fleet boss Craig Davis remains upbeat despite his side's 2-3 home defeat by relegation rivals Guildford City

Paul Burgman
Fleet keeper Ryan Pryce fells Guildford striker Lance Banton-Brown, earning him a red card

Ability...Check. Commitment...Check. Desire...Check. You would think then that safety was a shoo-in for Fleet Town player-boss Craig Davis, but there is one vital ingredient missing to complete the survival formula – a little bit of Lady Luck.

Two goals in the last eight minutes – and a 95th-minute winner – turned a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 defeat at Evesham on Saturday.

And it got no better for Davis in the relegation six-pointer with Guildford City on Monday night when he saw goalkeeper Ryan Pryce sent off for a professional foul just six minutes in, with his side a goal to the good. It's just not going for the young Blues boss right now.

Still, despite slipping six points adrift of their closest rivals, Davis firmly believes he has tools to fix a seemingly irreparable situation.

Three-one down and a man down, his Fleet fighters never lay down, and after Davis himself pulled a goal back from the penalty spot they might have even gone on to salvage a precious point had Aaron Blaxall not blazed woefully wide with the goal at his mercy.

Story of the season

“It’s the story of our season in many ways,” a despondent Davis said. “We were magnificent from start to finish and it's just one bad decision and a mad five minutes which has cost us.

“It was a bad decision of Prycey to come out the way he did but I don’t for one minute think it was a red card, the lad kicked it off the pitch and there was a covering defender. We didn’t have a sub keeper and it's killed us.

“But I was chuffed to bits and proud as punch of them. I have nothing but admiration for what they have done throughout the season. These guys are paying to play football and travelling to places like Bristol off their own back. They’ve given me absolutely everything.” 

None more committed you might argue than top scorer Simba Mlambo who, just two minutes after giving Fleet the lead from close range after good work from captain Ben White, was between the sticks facing a penalty kick from Ben Walshe.

This came after Pryce flew out of his goal to needlessly up-end an on-rushing Lance Banton-Brown right on the edge of the box, prompting referee Mark Lucie to brandish a red card.

Captain Walshe duly obliged and City were in front four minutes later – Andy White’s fine curling effort giving Mlambo no chance on its way into the top corner.

Mlambo produced a fine one-handed save to deny Sam Spencer's delicate chip which was heading for the top corner, while substitute Jack White – scorer of Fleet's 75th-minute opener at Evesham on Saturday – went closest for Fleet with a half-volley which flew just over.

But hopes of a comeback were dashed three minutes into the start of the second half when City made it 3-1 – White's corner from the left found Jack Guilford in the box and his stooping cushioned header crept into the bottom corner.

Fleet, though, weren't finished yet and kept City keeper Antony Hall busy on his 200th appearance for City, keeping out efforts from Jack and Ben White before Byres reduced the arrears from the spot after Guilford was adjudged to have handled on the line, escaping only with a yellow.

And Davis’ men might have stolen a point with four minutes remaining when a fine through ball from Alex Charlick found Blaxall, who blocked Jamie Thoroughgood’s attempted clearance to leave him clear on goal, but somehow smashed the ball wide from ten yards on the half volley.

The games though come thick and fast for Davis’ men, who now have back-to-back home games in 48 hours, against Cinderford Town tonight (Thursday) and Swindon Supermarine on Saturday before they make the short trip to Godalming Town on Tuesday.

Fleet: Pryce; Byres (Scott 75), Blaxall, B White, Gater, Rousell, Charlick, Davis, Mlambo, French (J White 15), Carr (Stanley 64). Subs: Staines, Carter.

Ref: Mark Lucie. Att: 137.

 
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