Calor Div One South & West.
Cirencester Town 2.
Fleet Town 2.
JODY BEVAN wanted his 250th Southern League goal to be meaningful – he probably wasn’t banking on it salvaging a home point for title-chasing Cirencester against basement club Fleet Town.
Bevan crashed a near-post volley from a Steve Davies cross in off the underside of the bar in the 65th minute to make the score 2-2.
It prompted a wholesale bombardment of the Fleet goal for the final 25 minutes but Ciren could not fashion a winner thanks to brilliant goalkeeping from ex-Bournemouth player Ryan Pryce and an Alamo-like rearguard action from his defence.
Nonetheless, the hosts were awarded a rather harsh penalty for handball in stoppage time which gave them the opportunity to gain a deserved win, however cruel that might have been to the Fleet battlers.
Prolific striker Lee Smith who had put away two spot kicks against Bridgwater in their previous match, stepped up, weathering some persistent sledging from at least one Fleet player along the way, before blazing his shot over the bar.
There was still time for the referee to turn down a more obvious penalty when the tireless Aidan Bennett was hauled down in the box and for one more Pryce-less save when the keeper somehow clawed another goal-bound effort out of the top corner at the end of a breathless and scintillating second half.
It had looked as if it might be plain sailing for Ciren when Ellis Dunton put them ahead in the seventh minute with what is rapidly becoming one of his trademark set piece headers from a Sean Wood corner.
Smith should probably have put the hosts 2-0 up five minutes later when a defensive slip left him clear in a one-on-one, but he sent his shot wide.
For all Fleet’s lack of cutting edge up front – they never once troubled Glyn Garner in the first half – they were competing with much more passion than you would expect of a side propping up the table. And the contest between Smith and Fleet right back James Scott was the most absorbing battle of the afternoon.
After losing their momentum briefly, Ciren finished the half strongly – Steve Davies had an effort headed off the line, Joe Shepherd could not drill his shot past a mass of bodies after being set up well by a thrilling byline run from Davies and Sean Wood was unlucky when a fierce drive rose just over the bar.
Ciren’s inability to finish off their opponents in the opening 45 was punished when the first Fleet attack of note cut through a static Ciren defence in the 52nd minute. Rob Carr’s shot came back off the post and Pat Cox was given enough time to finish off the rebound.
Fleet’s tails were now up and a shell-shocked Ciren conceded again three minutes later when a headed clearance from a corner fell to the skilful Jordan Carter almost 30 yards out and he hit the sweetest half volley past Garner to give the visitors a shock lead.
At half-time, Simba Mlambo, who had been a handful against Ciren in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, came off the bench and his pace and trickery was giving Fleet an outlet down the right flank, particularly on the counter.
However, after going behind, Jody Bevan was introduced from the bench and he was pivotal throughout the final 35 minutes as Ciren laid siege to the Fleet goal.
Bennett snatched at a good chance in the 58th minute, Pryce made the first of his fine saves in the 60th from Davies and a defender threw himself in front of a goal-bound Smith effort a minute later.
But it was that man Bevan who brought his side back level. Bennett found Davies with a glorious pass out wide and the winger’s cross was met with ferocious accuracy at the near post by the Everton fan, a finish worthy of Romelu Lukaku.
Bennett was then denied a deserved goal in the 69th minute when his fierce shot was arrowing towards the top corner only for Pryce to appear from nowhere to tip it over.
Astute flicks from Bevan set both Davies and Smith through on goal in the closing minutes but again there was no way past the brilliant Pryce.
Fleet were under a relentless assault but they were playing a full part in a pulsating game and they had three chances to snatch the points themselves on the break through Cox, Mlambo and player manager Craig Davis. Ultimately, though, it was two points dropped by Cirencester who created enough chances to win a handful of games. But credit to Fleet whose quality and passion makes their lowly position in the league hard to fathom.
A memorable game, then, especially for milestone man Bevan. Cirencester Town: Garner, Mortimer-Jones, Dunton, Pritchett, Shepherd (Bevan, 56), Henry (capt), Hooper, Wood, Bennett, Davies, Smith. Unused subs: Bromley, Bond, Davidge, Pitts.
Standard MoM: Jody Bevan.