A blistering opening phase should have settled it but we replay on Tuesday at Fleet
If there's one thing to learn from this game as a team, it's never, ever allow yourself to have the feeling that you're in for a stroll. Granted, after the first 20 minutes or so it seemed there could only be one winner, with Hartley creating goalscoring chance after goalscoring chance. Cooky looked dangerous every time the ball was anywhere near him, and if I find the person who swapped his boots in the dressing room before the game I'll give him a severe talking to, because it just wasn't his day in terms of finishing the chances he carved out. He was beating himself up about it afterwards and that's understandable, but he didn't need to - all the luck was on Fleet's side in that blistering opening 20.
Not so much a game of two halves, more a game of the first 20 minutes and then the rest.
But then we somehow let them back into the game. As a team, our workrate dropped a little, perhaps thinking it was just 'going to come to us', Fleet felt less pressured and began to get some kind of foothold in the game - because make no mistake, they could have been 3 or 4 down after 20 minutes and all but dead and buried. As it turned out, it was just 1-0 at the break thanks to Zac's great control and turn in the box, causing the defender to clip him, and Cooky made no mistake from the spot.
Noaksey's superb glanced header from Aaron's corner was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by the Fleet 'keeper - 2-0 would have been something of a fairer reflection of the first half. Captain Sam Argent went off before the break with an injury and we missed his workrate and ball-winning ability up top - he looks very doubtful for the replay. He was replaced by Adam Everiss, a very good replacement to have off the bench after not being available last weekend against Longlevens.
But Fleet had got some kind of foothold and were still in the game, and being no fools and with some decent players, they began to match us all over the park. As the game went on, particularly second half, they 'appeared' to have more drive and energy in some parts of the pitch. They certainly must have had more belief than early in the game. For our part, we didn't retain the ball well enough and looked surprisingly disjointed at times, perhaps because of shuffling players and positions, but we did still carve out more opportunities. The more we failed to take the opportunities, the more it was on the cards that we'd pay the price and we did, with a marvelous strike from distance drawing the visitors level late in the second half.
At that stage it could have gone either way, and Fleet almost snatched the win in the final few minutes, the ball being frantically ushered away almost from the goal line. That truly would have been tough on us. In the end, a draw and a replay on Tuesday was probably a good outcome for both sides. [KOB]