Match Report 2001/2002

Reconstructed Fleet just too strong for Linnets

Saturday 24th November 2001 : Jewson Wessex League

Fleet Town 3, Lymington & New Milton 2

Coming into this match, one was reminded how quickly footballing fortunes can change. Three months before, in the heat of late August, Lymington & New Milton strolled through an emphatic home win against these same opponents, while Fleet's early form appeared to be nose-diving. Here, in late November, with the first signs of winter still some way off, the hosts were top of the Wessex table, while their visitors had struggled to find any semblance of the form that has been their trademark for the previous six seasons.

For Fleet, this about-turn had come about largely because the side had been almost totally reconstructed since that August defeat at New Milton. The influx of new manager Steve Beeks and eight players from Combined Counties League champions and near neighbours Cove, was behind this change. Indeed the transfer of players had been so swift that a misunderstanding had arisen concerning the disciplinary record of one of them. This had resulted in his participation in a Wessex match when he should in fact have been under suspension, a breach of the regulations that had induced the Wessex League to exact a one-point penalty on Fleet.

As far as L&NM were concerned, the loss through injury and suspension of a number of key players, but most notably ace striker Leigh Phillips, was largely to blame - although trying to operate within tighter financial constraints under a new management regime has been a factor. Nevertheless, the Linnets were approaching this fixture with a rising optimism brought about by Phillips' immediate return to form following his lengthy suspension, the return to fitness of other key players such as Mark Smith - who starred in the corresponding fixture last season - as well as the acquisition of a number of young but promising recruits to the team.

Indeed, it was the aforementioned two players who effectively "got the ball rolling" when they combined to give L&NM the lead on 22 minutes, Smith's through ball finding Leigh Phillips, who evaded the attentions of two Fleet defenders before firing home the opening salvo to give the visitors a deserved lead. There is a saying in football that (as a team) you are never more vulnerable than when you have just scored - and so it proved here when Kilner levelled the scores within a minute direct from a free-kick, with the Linnets defence still trying to organise itself.

The league-leaders went ahead on the half-hour mark when top-scorer Frampton struck an excellent solo effort but Lymington & New Milton continued to battle and got their reward a couple of minutes before half-time when Brett Phillips hit a stunning left-foot shot from fully 25 yards out that sped into the top corner of the net to give them a well-earned equaliser.

Half-time : Fleet 2, L.&N.M. 2

The second half was as evenly contested as the first and both sides had opportunities to take the lead without achieving the necessary breakthrough. With both defences seeming to have the upper hand the game appeared to be heading for a draw, with the midfield players of both sides alternately trying to create openings for their respective strikers or working hard to close down their opposite numbers.

In an attempt to alter the pattern, Lymington & New Milton brought on leading scorer Richie Glenister in place of Scott Metcalf but the change in the pattern was created by the home side on 72 minutes when Frampton beat his marker and headed home a cross to ultimately give the home side the three points and maintain their presence at the top of the pile.

The Linnets made further changes, bringing on McDonald and Keeping for Leigh Phillips and Marwood but could not find a way to break open the Fleet defence for a third time. Linnets' boss Kemp afterwards insisted he was not down-hearted despite seeing his slide slip to their sixth league defeat of the campaign. He said: "I cannot criticise my players because that is the type of performance that makes you want to become a manager. Their attitude and commitment out there was first class. We are not getting the breaks, but I have no problems with the way we are battling - just the results are sometimes disappointing."

Lymington & New Milton : Kearn, Stride, Liddon, Kemp, Morris, B. Phillips, Gazzard, Smith, L. Phillips (McDonald 75), Metcalf (Glenister 70), Marwood (Keeping 75).

Match reports on this site are based on those appearing in the New Milton Advertiser & Lymington Times (except where separately credited) with additional material from my own resources where relevant.

  Online with the Linnets © Paul Johns MMI