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Match Report

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Match report by Ian Pluck

Manager Glyn Creaser made 5 changes to the starting line-up which bowed out of the Berks and Bucks Cup at Beaconsfield on Monday, with keeper Jack Sillitoe, Alex Collard, Ollie Stanbridge, Bruno Brito and Sonny French all returning in place of Michael Chalmers, Chris Cordara-Soanes, Greg Williams, Ashlan Bubb and Jamie Jellis.

Against a youthful looking Fleet Town side which has struggled to collect points so far this season, many were predicting a victory to continue the recent good form. However, the visitors no doubt buoyed by a narrow defeat on penalties to Farnborough in their County Cup match in midweek had different ideas. Boosted by the signing of ex Farnborough player Matt Bunyan, installed as captain on his debut, they started strongly and had a physical edge to their game, to be expected from a team desperate for points at this early stage of the season.

It was the Ducks who should have opened the scoring in the 5th minute. A weak clearance from goalkeeper Liam Beach fell nicely for Sonny French, who found Harry Jones clear in the left channel. A slightly heavy first touch took the ball too close to the onrushing Beach, but Jones managed to touch it past him, but found the angle too tight to find the back of the net, the ball hitting the side netting.

From the resulting goal kick, a headed clearance from Alex Collard fell to Bunyan 20 yards out. Unlike Jones, his first touch was precise and he drilled a half volley narrowly over the crossbar.

Soon after though, the visitors did take the lead. Bunyan was involved again, heading down a cross from the left into the path of right winger Sam Pekun, who lashed a spectacular half volley past Sillitoe to stun the home crowd. 1-0 Fleet

Four minutes later and the Ducks could have levelled. A ball forward from Collard was touched on by Ollie Stanbridge towards Brito. Challenged by Bobby Dormer, the ball fell kindly to the Portuguese striker, but his decision making proved wrong, as his left footed shot from outside the area curled wide of the far post, with Jones again free on the edge of the penalty area and looking a better option.

On 20 minutes a drilled corner by ex-Duck Josh Baines was met firmly by the head of Bunyan, this time Sillitoe made a fine save, tipping the ball over the bar.

In the 29th minute, a seemingly innocuous challenge on Jack Wood by Francois Gabbidon was unfortunately to lead to a serious facial injury to the Ducks skipper. As the pair tussled for the ball on half way, Gabbidon appeared to grab Wood’s shirt and pull him to the ground, tumbling on top of him. As they fell, the striker’s studs caught Wood in the face, leaving him bleeding heavily from a cut just under his eye. Neither official saw anything untoward, although the consensus from the crowd on that side of the ground was that the striker was extremely lucky to escape sanction for reckless play. Wood was not so lucky, his face swelling up and being unable to stem the flow of blood, he was forced off the pitch, to be replaced at left back by Ashlan Bubb, making his league debut for the club.

In the 35th minute, the visitors had a golden opportunity to double their lead. A challenge by Ryan Kinnane on Gabbidon near the goal line was deemed a foul by the referee, but Bradley Wilson couldn’t convert the spot kick, Sillitoe down well to his right to save, with Ben Toye following up hitting the bar with the goal at his mercy.

Four minutes later and hearts were in mouths again as Bunyan hit the floor after another Kinnane challenge in the penalty area. The Ducks fans were relieved to see that after a shrill blast from the referee’s whistle, he awarded a free kick to the Ducks and a yellow card to Bunyan for simulation.

As half time approached the visitors had one final chance to double their lead; Gabbidon beat Kinnane to the ball and laid it off to Bunyan, but Sillitoe was equal to the effort, making a good save.

Half-time: Aylesbury 1-1 Fleet

Ten minutes into the second half and the Ducks were forced to make a second injury substitution. This time it was Brito who came off second best in a 50/50 challenge with Dormer, taking a painful knock to the shin, Lea Coulter joining the fray in his place.

On the hour mark, Pekun beat stand in left back Bubb on the wing and put in a dangerous cross, which was half cleared as far as Toye on the edge of the box. Sillitoe again came to the rescue, quickly off his line to block the shot on goal.

On 67 minutes, a good short corner routine saw Ollie Hogg and Sonny French exchange passes, before Hogg delivered a hanging cross to the far post where Alex Collard headed the ball down into the ground, but could only watch as it sailed up over the bar.

Three minutes later the scores were level. Great work by Tyriq Hunte and Stanbridge on the left found Hogg, making a great “3rd person” run into the penalty area. He opened his body and curled a sublime finish across Beach and into the far corner to equalise. 1-1

On 73 minutes a typically powerful run by Hunte on the left wing saw him able to beat 2 defenders and pass the ball to Coulter, whose shot was deflected for a corner. From Hogg’s in swinging delivery, Collard again at the far post was unable to get his volley on target.

Fleet threatened again two minutes later, a ball down the left channel found substitute Patrik Ruzicka, making his second appearance against the Ducks this season after playing for Beaconsfield in the season opener. However, he chose to shoot early and failed to hit the target.

With the game entering the final 10 minutes, the Ducks were pressing hard for the winning goal that their second half performance would have warranted. However Beach in the Fleet goal had other ideas, making a number of outstanding saves to keep the scores level.

First he denied French after the striker had made a driving run into the penalty area; he cut the ball back to Jones and received the ball back, but his shot was well saved.

Then with 7 minutes to go, Lea Coulter was awarded a penalty after having his shirt pulled by a defender. French stepped up and fired towards Beach’s left post, but the keeper made a fine stop.

The final action of the match came deep into injury time as a long ball was headed into the path of French; he took the ball towards the six yard boxbut was met by Beach who again made a fine save at his near post to concede a corner. From the corner Kinnane rose highest to meet the ball, but couldn’t direct his effort on goal.

Shortly afterwards, the final whistle was blown, giving the Ducks a few things to ponder, not least the injuries to Wood and Brito ahead of the 3rd qualifying round trip to Folkestone next Saturday. It was game where Fleet belied their poor start to the season and certainly put up a fight for the points, but were indebted to their keeper for keeping the scores level.

Before next Saturday’s cup match, there is the matter of a trip to Kempston on Tuesday evening, where no doubt the Ducks will be looking to rotate the team again as they protect those with knocks before a tough looking cup encounter.