THURROCK secured a Ryman North play-off place with a 3-1 win at Dereham Town.
After heartbreak in the play-offs in the last two seasons, Fleet will be gunning to make it third time lucky – with a match against Maldon & Tiptree or AFC Hornchurch set to be the prize in the semi-final.
But Thurrock were made to work against Dereham. The match was goalless at half-time, with home goalkeeper Josh Glover impressing – in particular a superb stop to halt David Cowley.
Into the second-half, Ronnie Winn was denied before the first goal did arrive. Joe Christou did well to deliver a cross high into the penalty area and Richard Halle was on hand to head home.
Two substitutes combined for the second goal, with Michael Pindy and Jack Barham linking up well.
The former beat several men and sent a cross in which Barham did well to head beyond Glover with several home defenders for company.
Ryan Crisp pulled a goal back to make for a nervy ending but Winn made sure as he pounced after a Pindy effort had cannoned back off the crossbar.
Another team right back in contention for the top five are Aveley following their 2-1 win at Cheshunt.
Back-to-back wins means the Millers are now just three points off fifth, albeit with an inferior goal difference.
Aveley had been coping well with the threat of Cheshunt and they took a deserved lead before half-time.
Jordan Peart was played through and the striker finished with aplomb to put Aveley ahead.
Cheshunt’s Jason Hallett was denied what looked to be a penalty, following a challenge by goalkeeper Lamar Johnson.
But Aveley did concede a penalty late in the half. Hussain Jaffa made the foul but Johnson threw himself to one side to keep the Millers ahead.
Michael Toner and Mason Bloomfield missed chances as the half came to a close.
Two minutes into the second period, Cheshunt were level, after they won another penalty.
Johnson committed a foul and Tom Bruno found the net this time.
Cheshunt had a goal disallowed for handball before what turned out to be the winner arrived.
Adalberto Pinto sent in a delightful cross and Bloomfield beat his man to steer the ball into the net.
The same man missed a golden chance to make the game safe but 2-1 was enough in the end.
Tilbury played out a 1-1 draw with in-form Soham Town Rangers, who did lead at the halfway point.
Sam Mulready scored the only goal of the first 45 minutes on 32 minutes.
But Kurt Smith levelled from the penalty spot 15 minutes from time to ensure the points were shared.
Danny Smith was sent off for Tilbury late on, along with Soham’s Ashley Bankole.
In the Ryman Premier League, Grays Athletic ended a wretched season with a battling 1-0 victory over Merstham.
Merstham were well stopped in the opening exchanges by Grays’ goalkeeper Amadou Tangara, as some fine reactions denied Tom Kavanagh after the ball had deflected into his path.
Ibrahim Fofana was the next to be denied by Tangara as Grays struggled to match their opponents.
But they came close to forcing a surprise opener. Kieran Bishop was put through onto his right foot but his drive crashed off the near post, with Jamie Stuart’s follow-up saved by Yannick Makiese.
Young talent Joe Payne made a superb goal line block to keep Grays level, with Reece Hall the frustrated party.
Although Grays’ Matt Baxter had the last effort of the half, with a powerful block from the away stopper blocking the strike.
Tangara pushed away Xavier Vidal’s 20 yard effort, with Kristian Campbell’s volley from the following corner cleared off the line by Payne.
Dan Bennett shot wide for Merstham as the game entered the final 15 minutes but then Grays struck.
Bishop was granted too much space down the right and his fierce cross was met by player/manager Jamie Stuart who diverted the ball home.