New-look Fleetdown fortunate to beat bare XI Potters
Fleetdown United 1-0 Potters FC
Potters slipped to a 1-0 away defeat vs a very much new-look Fleetdown United side in this Premier Division clash.
Whilst Potters Manager Henry Willard could only field a weakened bare XI, with midfielder Stuart Stone having to cover at centre-back, and Craig Libby signing-on on the day of the game, Fleetdown saw their Kent County Premier Division's side's cup game postponed, resulting in an influx of players from their senior side lining up for this game, with five substitutes named on the bench, and only a couple of faces in the side who were present in the 13-0 defeat the previous week.
The first-half was a somewhat scrappy affair, with neither side ever really able to grab control of the game at any given point and dominate.
Both sides were giving the ball away too often, with Fleetdown's attacks generally breaking down with misplaced passes through the central third, whilst Potters were playing some neat football and building well, showing dangerous intent in the final third with the likes of Craig Roxburgh, Matt Bunn, Connor Jeffery and Luke Foad driving forward at the Fleetdown defence, but the final ball tended to either be over-hit or cut-out.
Craig Libby had the first real opportunity of the game as he was played through one-on-one, but the out-rushing Fleetdown goalkeeper and recovering defender on his back just managed to kill off the chance.
Potters were pressing and seeing plenty of the ball in the final third, albeit without any clear-cut chances ever coming to fruition. Craig Roxburgh was incorrectly adjudged offside twice in quick succession as he was played through and got in behind the back-line, whilst Matt Bunn was shoved from behind in the box and had a strong claim for a penalty turned down midway through the first-half.
Bunn saw his first effort of the afternoon fly wide as he spun and shot in the box, but as half-time approached, Fleetdown took a 1-0 lead somewhat against the run of play, stealing the ball in a 50/50 on the halfway line before counter-attacking and outnumbering the Potters defence, eventually squaring to the back-post and bundling the ball home to take a 1-0 advantage going in at the break.
Potters' 'Keeper Max Bridges had had next to nothing to do in the first-half besides picking the ball out the back of the net, but Potters found themselves a goal down having probably just shaded the game with the better all-round play, albeit just lacking that extra bite and mental edge, which is where Fleetdown were doing well - Putting their bodies on the line just that little bit more in many of the 50/50's.
A quiet start to the second half soon livened up for the neutral as Fleetdown saw their young striker shown a straight red card on 50 minutes for a reckless lunging tackle on Potters' defender Liam Turner.
Despite going a man-down, however, Fleetdown enjoyed a 5-10 minute spell of good possession up until the hour-mark, passing the ball around well whilst the 11-men of Potters tried to grab a hold of the game.
Throughout the course of the game Fleetdown had used their five substitutes and the 'rolling substitutions' rule to their full advantage, keeping things fresh with changes every 10 minutes or so, and bringing on experienced heads to maintain a compact formation that was hard for Potters to break down.
Potters Manager Henry Willard changed his side's formation for the final thirty minutes, switching to a 3-4-1-2 formation with Stuart Stone pushing up into midfield, and Luke Foad adopting a #10 role.
The switch soon began to make a big impact as Potters began to throw the kitchen sink at Fleetdown with relentless attacking that grew and grew, with chances-a-plenty coming and going begging.
Connor Jeffery saw two efforts from outside the box go wide, with the second effort skimming the post, whilst Matt Bun and Craig Roxburgh both saw efforts go wide of the mark.
The visitors should have had a penalty on 70 minutes as Matt Bunn jinked his way into the box, only to be tripped and brought down with no contact made with the ball from the defender, but the referee somehow waved away the protests, with Fleetdown wiping the sweat off their foreheads knowing they'd gotten away with the foul.
Henry Willard's side continued to pile on the pressure, pressing and attacking in numbers, trying to find a way through. Both Stuart Stone and Craig Roxburgh saw excellent shots cleared off the line with last ditch blocks rescuing Fleetdown's 'keeper who was beaten on both occasions, and Roxburgh then hit the post as he once again came close to adding to his tally this season.
As the minutes fell away, Luke Foad blazed over the bar from an acute angle, and two further chances were sent inches wide of the post as Potters shot across the goalmouth, but despite their immense pressure and efforts, they just could not find a way through.
Fleetdown sucked up the pressure, put bodies behind the ball, put their bodies on the line, and continued to keep things fresh making use of their five-man bench, whilst the 10-pairs of outfield Potters legs had given absolutely everything for 90 minutes, particularly in the second-half, but just could not find that extra bit of energy or spark to net an equalizer.
The final whistle eventually brought an end to the game after four minutes of injury time, and Fleetdown's very different looking side had snatched all three points.
Potters' 11-men trudged off the pitch dejected, and all their tanks on empty. Henry Willard's men had given everything they had until they were simply running on air, and there was a feeling as if the players had just lost a cup final, they had given so much.
At the end of the day, Potters had chances, but just could not put the ball in the back of the net when presented with their opportunities. There were two very strong cases for penalties, particularly the foul on Matt Bunn in the second-half, but Fleetdown made the most of having their more senior, experienced players available, pressed and pressured continuously, and were resilient and hard-working in the defensive & middle thirds. Despite creating very little upfront, the home side had capitalized on a slip at the end of the first-half to steal a 1-0 lead against the run of play, and soaked up the pressure until the 90th minute to secure their first win of the season.