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Fleet gain promotion

Fleet Town secured promotion to the Doc Martens eastern division for next season after regsitering a 1-1 draw with fellow high-fliers Andover, whose point earned them the Jewson Wessex League title

THE celebrations continued late into the night at Fleet Town on Saturday as boss Steve Beeks and his merry men achieved mission impossible — promotion to the Doc Martens eastern division.

The club has gone from strength to strength since Beeks arrived last October and the hard work finally paid off after a thrilling afternoon at Calthorpe Park when it was confirmed, minutes after the final whistle, that Fleet's dream had come true against all the odds.

And in an added bonus, the crowd of 623 — the highest attendance in the Jewson Wessex League for many a season— weren't disappointed by a match which lived up to its billing as the most exciting clash of the year.

The result saw Andover retain the league title, but it was Fleet who came away with the greatest prize — a swift return to Southern League football next season.

It took a nervy 78 minutes before Fleet pulled themselves back from the goal they had conceded early on, and, looking back, it was only the width of a lick of paint which prevented them from claiming the title also.

But the point was enough and despite nearest rivals Totton beating Thatcham 4-1, promotion was secured.

An elated Beeks said: "I'm as happy as can be. Back in October I think there were a few people who frowned or even laughed when we said there was a chance for Fleet to get in the top two.

"It did look distant and we said then top six would be an achievement and we gradually ground it out and got closer and closer.

"And now the goal that Dave (Skilton) and I set ourselves in October, we've achieved.

"You set your goals in football, in life and to achieve one that you think is really hard makes you very happy.

"Some of the boys are really gutted and that shows what sort of characters they are and how honest and what good players they are.

"I'm just so happy because we got what we set out for. To get promotion is such a bigger achievement, I'm so much happier than winning the league, because you actually get something for it.

"We're going up a division. We've got a new challenge and we can now really push on and get another promotion next season.

"I've been talking to a few players and things have worked out that we've got the opportunity to talk to new players and try and push on from now.

"The club has worked hard and been rewarded with something concrete."

But it was a nervy affair and Andover piled on the pressure from the off — snatching the lead after just ten minutes.

A mistake on the edge of the box by John Murphy let ex-Southampton star Nicky Banger through, to knock on for David Asker to fire past Adie Creamer in the Fleet goal.

On 17 minutes Alan Carey should have equalised for the home side after Ian Mancey had beat keeper Kieron Drake to a high ball and it fell nicely for Carey with the goal at his leisure in front of him. With all the time in the world and an open goal, Carey's nerves told and he slotted just the wrong side of the upright.

He could have made amends two minutes before the break, but after bringing down a clearance from Andover's Matthew Bicknell, he rounded Drake only to see his shot graze the wrong side of the post again.

But Carey — at the third time of asking — finally found the target on 78 minutes to bring Fleet level.

The ex-Basingstoke winger charged down a weak clearance in the box and made no mistake this time as he fired past Drake.

The home side enjoyed a fresh breath of air in the closing ten minutes, but despite good chances falling to Mark Frampton, Neil Musgrove and Ian Mancey and a Carey freekick 20 yards out a minute from time, they just couldn't find a winner.

Beeks added: "I was getting news about Totton throughout and some of the players were thinking solely about winning, some were thinking about promotion and everything was in a bit of a whirl.

But we got our act together and I think at the very least we deserved a draw.

"It was a good game and it was a great advert for Wessex League football or any non-league football. I really enjoyed it.

"The only goal I had was that we got promoted and we've done that and that's everything - that's all that matters.

"The place is buzzing. Onwards and upwards.

"The crowd shows just what can be achieved and hopefully come July they'll remember that and we can get some people down to enjoy Southern League football now."

FLEET: Creamer; Ross, Marshall, Murphy, Noad, Stockwell, Beeks, Carey, Mancey, Frampton, Dadson (sub Musgrove 21 mins). Not used: Willes, Millington-Lee.

ANDOVER: Drake; Damon, Bicknell, Kennedy, Barker, Webber, Asker, Rusher, Banger, Forbes, Dyke. Not used: Freeman, Simpson.

Ref: Martin Bloor. Att: 623.


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
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