With on-loan keeper France returning to Lewes and Jackson still not fully fit, the management arranged to have ex-Maidenhead keeper Richard Barnard as our temporary number one, but he couldn’t make it on the day. Terry Davies was also missing, citing work for his absence.
So it was with a heavy heart that the Slough lads trooped onto the field against a confident looking Fleet, currently steered by Andy Sinton. With six minutes gone, Andy Deaner looked like he’d turned his ankle, but the tall striker battled through to help the Slough attack which surprisingly started brightly. Miller had challenged the keeper and been unfortunate to head the ball high over the bar after a good cross from Slough youngster Dean Harper.
Fleet responded almost immediately with a shot on target and looked increasingly threatening until Slough skipper Steve Daly clattered into ex-Rebel Adam Wallace. After several minutes, Wallace was eventually replaced by James Wise, leading to a strong Fleet attack which saw Metcalfe head away a dangerous corner and Fleet blasting shots wide and high.
Everyone in the ground knew by this point that a goal couldn’t be far away and sure enough, a passage of play which began with Leon Woodruffe stumbling over a simple clearance let in Nathan Smart who shot low and hard to Wilkinson's right.
To Slough’s credit, heads didn’t drop and some good forward play emerged immediately after going a goal behind, but sadly, as seems to be the case this season, it all fell apart in the final third with the front two struggling to convert any of their chances.
Defensive lapses saw Wilkinson forced to make another good save and on the half hour mark sloppy defensive play allowed Fleet’s James Wise to waltz in and take a fairly easy strike, leaving the visitors two ahead of their hosts.
Five minutes later and Smart had scored his second, though this time he had to strike well and hard to beat Wilkinson between the sticks.
Frustration from the boys in amber began to show as George Moleski received a booking, though somewhat harshly, for a late tackle.
Still, the scoreline didn’t seem to deter some members of the squad, and after a slightly dodgy start, Woodruffe started to make clever runs down the left wing, linking up with Deaner in the box who struck wide of the posts.
A resurgent Slough now began to put pressure on Fleet's defence and a small glimmer of hope was finally provided after some clever linking play saw Miller pass wide left to Lee Charles, who timed his run beautifully to round two defenders and force a well placed cross over the box and onto the waiting head of Andy Deaner, who subsequently scored on the stroke of half-time.
Slough started the second half the brighter of the two teams, but failed to take their chances in the final third. As the half wore on, Slough reverted to the hopeful high balls and lost possession which has dogged their early season games.
Wilkinson was forced into a flying save after a slack free kick was given against the Rebels 20 minutes into the half and a the home side were lucky to have a good strike against them declared offside ten minutes later.
Slough substituted a hard-working Matt Miller for Mark Bartley, who subsequently pushed Charles into his more natural position up front. Immediately, Charles was on the attack and was unlucky to have been caught just offside when he worked his way to being one-on-one with the keeper.
Sadly, just two minutes later, Fleet were on the offensive again and a fine strike by Phil John saw the visitors go 4-1 up. Bodies and minds had started to tire on the Slough side with just 15 minutes to go with Deaner and Woodruffe both receiving treatment after some hard challenges from the Fleet lads and Lee Charles receiving a booking for sarcastically applauding the referee’s decision to finally award him a free kick.
As the final whistle blew, Slough fans dutifully clapped their players off, but having never gone out of the FA Cup this early, many questioned what sort of a season would lie ahead.
Fleet Town Line up
P Smith, Smart, J Smith, John, Noakes, Barnes (Hemmings 84'), Field, Pearce, E Smith, (Squires 75'), Wallace (Wise 18'), Lewis. Not used: Gray.