Paulton Rovers 1-2 Fleet Town
Relieved Craig Davis heaped praise on his battling Fleet Town side after their fight to avoid relegation was handed an unexpected boost in the shape of a first away win of the season at title-chasing Paulton Rovers on Saturday.
Two second-half goals from Simba Mlambo – including a 64th-minute winner – did the damage for the Blues, who now go into their most important week of the season so far full of confidence.
Davis’ men entertain fellow strugglers Didcot Town on Saturday and then second-bottom Guildford City on Tuesday night knowing that six points are a must if they are to achieve their unlikely escape.
And after Saturday’s brave showing at Winterfield Road, against all the odds, Davis is hopeful his side may have, at last, turned the corner.
“It was a fantastic win for our lads, against a very big side. I could not be more pleased,” the player/boss purred.
“Especially after all the hard training that went in before this game, and then to see all that work rewarded out on the pitch today made me very proud. It’ll give the lads a great boost going into some key games over the next few weeks.”
One of only two fixtures in the division to survive the weather, both sides struggled to deal with high winds and driving rain in the first half, although Fleet were indebted to keeper Ryan Pryce, who pulled off a fine save on the half-hour.
And it proved pivotal within a minute of the second half when striker Pat Cox headed down a free-kick from 20 yards out and Mlambo was on hand to drive the ball hard and low into the net.
The lead, however, was short-lived when Paulton wingman Brandon Barnes forced an equaliser 10 minutes later.
But Fleet were never overawed and it was the boss himself – playing in a more advanced role from his usual centre-back position – who orchestrated the winner, pinging a pin-point pass out to the lively Cox, who controlled well and beat the advancing keeper with a neat pass to his right, from where Mlambo drove home.
Paulton fought back strongly in the closing stages but the Fleet back-line, marshalled expertly by young Aldershot academy starlet Joe Gator, held firm to claim the points.
Tuesday night’s derby at Godalming Town was called off with a waterlogged pitch.
FLEET: Pryce, Scott, Blaxall, B White, Gator, Rousell, Carter, (Craig Stanley 51, Davis, Mlambo, Cox, French. Subs: Cunningham, Charlick, B Smith, J White.