Fleet Spurs 2 Cove 1 (Combined Counties League Division 1)
Spurs Rally After Going Down to 10 Men
Report by John Porter
Following the recent snowfall, Spurs’ groundsman had worked assiduously on the pitch with the result that referee Andy Connor had no hesitation in declaring the game on. Despite drizzle for most of the second half the ground held up well, enabling Fleet to gain only their second home league win of the season. Although the home side were reduced to 10 men soon after the break when the scores were equal, they completed a battling victory against local rivals Cove.
Cove started off playing the better football and took the lead after eight minutes when a long cross-field pass from the right found Ryan Davis unmarked to the left of goal and he hammered a low right-foot shot past Mark Appleby and just inside the near post. The keeper got his hand to the powerful shot but was unable to keep the ball out.
The game continued in the same vein for most of the first half with the Wasps comfortably on top, passing the ball well and closing down the Fleet players when they had the ball. Spurs had forsaken their recent intelligent passing game for a series of long aimless hoofs in the general direction of the Cove goal.
However, 12 minutes before half-time Spurs equalised, against the run of the play, when a visiting defender committed a needless foul just outside the penalty area about 10 yards from the goal-line. James Thomas expertly curled the resulting free kick past Aiden Upward and just inside the far post.
Play then became much more even and Cove must have been rueing their lack of cutting edge in attack as the interval came with no addition to the score.
After the break, the game continued to be evenly balanced, but that balance was threatened in the 54th minute when Sam Middleton, who was making his first start for Fleet, was dismissed for his second booking. His first had come in the first half for an accumulation of fouls, but the second was for a deafening tirade of basic Anglo-Saxon directed at referee Connor.
The balance had indeed changed, but not in the way expected. Five minutes later, a flick-on by Sam Knowles put Karl Dallaway in a position to harass the Wasps defence into an error, which they duly committed. This presented Dallaway with a straightforward chance, which he did not spurn. 2-1 for Spurs.
The heart seemed to have gone out of Cove, and the home defence of skipper Chris Barnes, Vic Mudonhi, James Scott and Pat Sawkins, supported by impressive newcomer Mikey McDonnell, held firm and with their resolute defending prevented the visitors from creating any clear-cut chances. Meanwhile, Fleet threatened to extend their lead on several occasions, squandering some good openings, but finishing up as narrow but worthy winners.
This result moves Spurs up to 16th place in the league. They may need to win their next game – at Kennels Lane on Saturday against Deportivo Galicia (kick-off 3.00) – to maintain or improve this position. On the same day, Cove entertain Kensington Borough, each of whom has 14 points, one fewer than Spurs’ 15.