Gravesend & Northfleet manager
Liam Daish insists his side will bounce back on Tuesday night at Grays
Athletic, after being a victim of a day light robbery at Stonebridge Road
today, writes Stephen McCartney.
The Fleet feel aggrieved as two goals from Lee Phillips stole the visitors
the first three points of this Nationwide Conference campaign, despite an
impressive first half display from Daish's men.
Had the Kent side taken their first half chances then they would have
easily won this match. However, they found themselves scratching
their heads during the interval, as they found themselves 1-0 down.
Both sides also had a man sent off, but Daish was pleased with his sides
performance, and will be looking for more of the same for the remainder of
the season - their first as a full-time club.
"I've come in at full-time, basically I've said to the lads you can't
give me anymore than that," he said in the post-match press
"The way we played first half to come in at one-nil down,
disappointing, but if they play like that and give me that from now until
the end of the season, I haven't got any problems. I thought we were
Gravesend gave debuts to seven of their players, and one of them, Danny
Slatter almost gave them the lead inside three minutes. After
bursting forward, the former Welling United midfielder shot just over from
Moments later, at the other end, Fleet goalkeeper Craig Holloway plucked
Dean Moxey's header out of the air following Paul Buckle's free kick out
on the left.
Charlie MacDonald stole the ball from Scott Hiley and passed to Jimmy
Jackson and his cross was headed over by Kim Grant from 12 yards.
The Fleet, however, then created two glorious chances in as many minutes
to break the deadlock.
Their first chance came after Jay Saunders played in MacDonald, and
although it appeared he was fouled inside the Exeter penalty area, he
still managed to get in a shot, which sadly for the Kent side screwed wide
of the right post.
And following Slatter's corner, Grant turned and shot at goal, and was
denied by a fine save from Paul Jones, who dived to his right to claw out
Phillips issued Fleet an 36th minute warning with a header, which just
dropped over Holloway's crossbar but Jimmy Jackson almost caught out Jones
with a swinging free kick from the right touchline, that caught the wind,
but Jones recovered well to pluck the ball out of the air.
But the Fleet were hit by a sucker punch on the stroke of half time as
Exeter stole the lead, to the delight of around 400 of their travelling,
Latching onto Andrew Taylor's through ball, Phillips shrugged off last
defender Scott Gooding to win the ball, and as Holloway advanced the
former under-15 England RUGBY player, rolled the ball inside the far post
from 16 yards.
Fleet's Justin Skinner described the atmosphere inside the home dressing
room during the half-time interval.
"There were a lot of heads down as we just thought we did deserve
something out of the game," he revealed.
"Exeter are meant to be one of the fancied teams for the
league. I thought we definitely out battled them and we outplayed
them a lot of the game, so there was a lot of disappointment,"
However, Jimmy Jackson twice went close in as many minutes for the Kent
side just past the hour mark.
After good football from Slatter, Jackson let fly from 20-yards only to
see his shot fly agonisingly over the far post.
Then another shot from 20 yards, but more central than before, was pushed
wide by Jones.
Exeter were then reduced to ten men after 66 minutes when their
substitute, Les Afful was shown a straight red card for a crunching tackle
on Slatter inside the centre circle.
Could Fleet get something out of this game? After all their impressive
display deserved it! But Brentwood referee Mr R Lee had other ideas
after 71 minutes, when he reached for his second red card of the game to
banish former Margate defender Ross Smith to the dressing rooms.
Okay, Smith was the last defender when he brought down Jon Challinor, but
the former Aldershot Town midfielder was heading towards the corner flag
rather than the goal when he was brought to the ground inside the box.
Phillips, however, rifled the resulting penalty high into the top right
hand corner, leaving every man, woman and child from Kent pondering how
Exeter were now 2-0 up, which was very much underserved.
Exeter City's fans, however, were now singing in the rain, and were
delighted to see the Fleet fans leave Stonebridge Road in their droves
with at least five minutes left to play.
There was a late rally from Fleet with Paul McCarthy rolling a shot wide
from the edge of the penalty area and having a header comfortably saved by
Jones, but it was just one of those days for the Kent side.
"We started on the front foot, caused them all sorts of problems,
created chances," reflected a dejected Daish after the game.
"I suppose you need to score when you're on top," he admitted.
Daish, however, was pleased with his seven debutants, and added:
"I've brought them to the club as I felt they were better from what I
had last year and, although we haven't got the result, that's how I want
us to play.
"There is a lot of spirit here, with a lot of work rate but it didn't
go for us today."
Daish admits if they perform like that again, at Grays on Tuesday night
(the Essex side drew 1-1 at Burton Albion today) they are more than
capable of getting something from the game.
"It was always going to be a difficult start but as long as the lads
go out and give me that, and play with that enthusiasm, hunger and work
rate, I'll take what comes," he said.
"If we lack a little bit of ability wise then it's down to me to
"But as long as the lads are giving me that, you saw the football we
played, and the chances that we made, although we've came away with
nothing, we've got to take it on the chin.
"We'll dust ourselves down, come in on Monday for training with a
smile on our face and look forward to the following game."
Skinner added: "I think it was one of those days. Nothing went
for us and after the first half we were a little bit gutted to go down
"We thought we battled really well, there were new players in and I
thought we all gelled together.
"We were really disappointed at half time but we wanted to get
something out of the game.
"Grays have been flying in pre-season. If we start like we did
today and carry on during the game, we are all positive that we can get
something out of the game."