Hayes & Yeading 1, Fleetwood Town 2
NATHAN Pond and Junior Brown chose the perfect time to score their second goals of the season to keep Town in the hunt for a Blue Square Bet Premier play-off spot.
Both netted in the first half and these strikes proved enough to secure three points in London, despite a second-half resurgence from the hosts.
Town made just one change from the win against Wrexham, with Jamie Mullan starting ahead of Keigan Parker, who moved to the bench.
Parker did not provide the game’s only Seasiders connection – the west London club is where DJ Campbell started his career, when they were simply Yeading.
Both sides probed in the opening minutes, with Sean Gregan heading away a Hayes free-kick and the previous weekend’s matchwinner Sean Clancy having the first effort on goal, comfortably claimed by keeper Lee Harrison.
A foul by Lee Brown on Jamie McGuire on the halfway line paved the way for the opening goal after ten minutes.
From the free-kick, Pond headed into the danger area and advanced to the six-yard line. As the ball rebounded close to goal, Pond reacted first to send a bouncing header between Harrison and two defenders.
Hayes didn’t learn their lesson, and when Anthony Barry delivered a similar free-kick moments later, Pond had taken up the same deep position unmarked and in acres of space.
This time, though, the defence dealt with his header into the goalmouth.
The home side than applied some pressure of their own, forcing skipper Steve McNulty into a headed clearance before Ben Wright’s shot was gathered cleanly by Danny Hurst.
Antony Barry, marking his 35th consecutive league start, was then flattened by Bradley Pritchard, but the referee bewildered the away supporters by giving a drop ball.
Town were now enjoying the lion’s share of the attacking, with Clancy and George Donnelly posing problems for the home defence.
Right winger Mullan flung himself at a cross from Brown but could not quite connect.
Fleetwood’s increasing dominance was rewarded with a second goal in added time just before the interval.
Brown crowned a strong run with a left-footed strike from the edge of the area which nestled in the bottom right corner.
Hayes must have received a stirring half-time talk as they attacked with purpose straight from the restart.
Former Peterborough striker Wright held off McNulty but couldn’t trouble Hurst, then Gregan picked up his fourth yellow card of the season for a challenge just outside the box.
And it was a costly one as Steven Masterson fired the resulting free-kick into the top right corner on 50 minutes, giving Hurst no chance.
Inspired by their goal, Hayes certainly proved to be a different proposition in the second half and Town right-back Shaun Beeley needed to be alert to deal with a Lewis Ferrell cross.
They had the ball in Hurst’s net again but Pritchard was deemed offside from Masterson’s free-kick.
The let-off boosted Town as Donnelly looked dangerous again.
However, Barry had not shrugged off his earlier knock and was forced off on the hour, replaced by on-loan Burnley youngster Alex-Ray Harvey for his Town debut.
Parker was introduced soon afterwards for Mullan.
Town weren’t happy just to hold on to their slender lead, and although a corner was too deep for Pond it did reach Clancy, whose delightful overhead kick was turned away for another corner.
The two Town substitutes linked up well with Clancy and Donnelly as the visitors counter-attacked with some menace.
Manager Micky Mellon said after the Wrexham game that the time for pretty football was gone, and the key objective was collecting maximum points.
And his players did just that with a gritty performance against stubborn opposition.
Hayes had enjoyed two wins and two draws from their previous five games, beating Kettering Town at home the previous weekend.
But after this defeat, goal difference alone is keeping them out of the drop zone.
It’s as you were for Town with six games to play.
They remain two points behind Kidderminster, who occupy the final play-off place, and two above York, who have two games in hand.
Hayes: Harrison, Ferrell (Yiadom 80), Cadmore, Bygrave, Brown, Pritchard, Holmes, Masterton, Rents, Wright (Joseph-Dubois 67), Buchanan; not used: McWeeney, Green, Appiah
Fleetwood: Hurst, Beeley, Brown, McNulty, Gregan, Barry (Harvey 59), Pond, Clancy, Mullan (Parker 62), McGuire, Donnelly; not used: Davies, Cavanagh, Harvey, Vieira
Referee: C Berry