Just as last Saturday, Fleet go into battle against a fellow form side as Twerton Park will host another crucial game, with the Vanarama National League South season just starting to reach boiling point.
Home side Bath City are in ninth place and are nine points off the play-off places but they’re top of the form guide on results from the last four matches and third in the six-match table. They are unbeaten in nine matches, with their last defeat coming against Welling United at the beginning of December.
Fleet boss Daryl McMahon knows nothing is going to be easy in the run-in, but after a hard-fought win over Hungerford last week and a tough draw at Hemel Hempstead last Tuesday, the Romans will no doubt present just as tricky an obstacle.
The manager has kept a settled side of late, with Fleet unchanged in the last five matches, and if it doesn’t change at Bath, it certainly will the following weekend as Dean Rance plays his last game before a two-match suspension imposed as a result of reaching 10 yellow cards in midweek. McMahon was understandably playing it cagey on Tuesday night when asked whether he anticipates any line-up tweaks for Twerton Park.
Tuesday’s draw notwithstanding, McMahon will be delighted with his side’s haul of 22 points from a possible 24 this year and has impressed on his players the requirement to shake off the second-half at Hemel and concentrate on gaining three points in Somerset.
Fleet last won at Bath five years ago in the Conference but have since settled for two draws and a defeat. Last season’s corresponding fixture saw a last-minute equalising penalty derail Fleet’s title charge and Bath will be looking for a repeat at least as they time a late run to the play-offs.
Manager Gary Owers was in the stands to watch Fleet take on Hemel Hempstead in midweek and though his side have the lowest goal tally in the top half of the table, he will be encouraged by the 13 goals in the last five games they’ve achieved.
Strike duo Andy Watkins and Nick McCootie have scored 21 between them this season, while Marvin Morgan – who saw his penalty saved by Nathan Ashmore at Stonebridge Road in October – has eight. City have also recruited the highly rated Shaun McCoulskey on loan from Bristol City who was high in the scoring charts for Weston-super-Mare earlier this season.
Bath beat St Albans City 4-1 at Clarence Park last Saturday and while the Saints seem to be in freefall at present, such a scoreline is testament to the Romans’ recent form – and all four of the above-named forward players were on the scoresheet.
Since last we played, when Bath rallied late and put the Fleet defence under some pressure but couldn’t overturn a 1-0 scoreline, they have also re-signed veteran Sekani Simpson and added Miles Welch-Hayes from Oxford United and Axel Andresson from Reading on loan, all defenders.
City will be at full strength other than long-term injury concern, defender Dan Ball.