Fluent Fitz go top but Downing hard Dunn by
After an unlucky break in the first half Downing struggled to maintain their recent form, which Fitz capitalised upon leaving the champions to play catch up.
Fitz 3 – 1 Downing
A dominant performance saw Fitz beat champions Downing to go top of the league on Sunday.
Goals from Simon Court and Donald Bogle put the hosts two up, and despite a late response from Max Burley, Fitz saw it out, Daniel Lobron adding a third in the final minute.
Downing had started the better, Burley looking lively and showing pace which would worry the solid, but rather slow, home defence.
Chances were few and far between, but after 15 minutes the league leaders would have been satisfied with their start, until the game turned on the most innocuous looking of incidents.
Taking a free-kick on the half-way line, Downing skipper Rob Dunn slipped, and instead of hitting the ball slammed his foot into the ground. As he crumpled to the floor, unable to continue, Downing’s hopes of a win seemed to slip away.
Whether it was the change in personnel, with a creative midfielder falling back into the defence, or just a lack of confidence without their leader, but Downing never again looked the better side.
It took just 5 minutes for Fitz, playing in a changed strip of canary yellow, to capitalise. A cross from the left side was met by Court, who finished with a glancing header, or a flukey shoulder, depending on who you ask.
Downing still showed flashes, Burley turning beautifully to beat both Fitz centre-backs, but firing wide from 20 yards. However, in the middle of the park Pierre-Yves Colin had begun to run the game for Fitz, showing some sublime touches and always seeming in control.
And two minutes into the second half it looked like Fitz would get their reward. A miss-kick from Downing Goalkeeper Matthews allowed Sophus zu-Ermgassen a chance in the box, and when he was felled by Alex Hanson, the hosts had a penalty.
Hansen, in fairness, was lucky to stay on the pitch, the high bounce of the ball just enough to convince the referee that this was not a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
Court stepped up to double Fitz’s advantage, but skied his penalty miles over the bar. Downing almost capitalised on the let off, a clever piece of play setting Ben Guest through on goal, but he scuffed his shot when one-on-one with the ‘keeper.
Eventually, in the 70th minute, the hosts did get the second their play deserved. A corner from zu-Ermgassen went across the goal-mouth and captain Bogle headed in from about a yard.
The game looked beyond doubt, and Fitz could have scored several more, Matthews making a couple of good saves.
Things looked to have gone from bad to worse in the last ten minutes when the visitors lost another centre back to cramp. Bizarrely though, being a man down seemed to inspire the champions, who began to press forward with more purpose.
With three minutes left on the clock Burley curled a free-kick from the right into the top corner, and Downing hopes of a point were restored.
Not for long though, as substitute Lebron was set through by James Rhodes to finish coolly in the 90th minute, sending Fitz top of the league and Downing on the back foot as they seek to defend their title.