With newly crowned manager of the month Daryl McMahon having presided over five league wins from five in 2017, opponents will once again be doing their level best to knock Fleet from their perch.
For Whitehawk, that is likely to be doubly so. Beaten by the Fleet at Stonebridge Road in the play-off semi-finals last season, the Hawks are also desperate to add points to the board in their bid to escape relegation and yield some stability under the latest man in the managerial hotseat, Andy Woodman.
Fleet won both games at The Enclosed Ground in 2015/16, having only had a draw and a defeat to show for our efforts prior to last season and must be targeting a similar result this time around, with Dartford breathing down our necks and Maidenhead tantalisingly within reach once more.
With the Fleet camp reporting a clean bill of health ahead of the trip to the south coast, Mark Phillips’ return to fitness presents McMahon with a few more options in defence, though the unchanged back line of the last few weeks has performed well and shut up shop against Chelmsford, Poole and Concord.
Whitehawk have undergone considerable changes since their 1-1 draw at Stonebridge Road back in August. The gamble on foreign players was swiftly dispensed with, resulting in the departure of Pablo Asensio and a considerable number of the South American players he brought in. Former Eastleigh boss Richard Hill steadied the ship and recruited a number of his former Spitfires championship side but he moved on to a job at Aston Villa and most of those signings have since departed too.
Managers three and four – the partnership of Alan Payne and Paul Reid – relinquished control of team affairs two weeks ago and boss number five has just arrived in the form of ex-Northampton and Oxford United goalkeeper Andy Woodman, which has already kick-started another process of player recruitment.
Still there are the well-known duo of Sergio Torres and Danny Mills, alongside ex-Fleet pair Michael West and Alex Osborn of course, while veteran Glen Southam remains of the Richard Hill signings. The latest players in the door this week are defenders Jahmal Howlett-Mundle (ex-Dover and Canvey Island) and Jimmy Shepherd (on loan from Dagenham & Redbridge), midfielder Frankie Sutherland from Woking, while striker Ibby Akanbi – who scored on his debut in midweek – comes in from Ryman South side Whyteleafe. Young goalkeeper Tom Stewart is also a new addition, replacing the recently departed Ross Flitney. Former Charlton striker Kevin Lisbie also signed in January but he hasn’t played since the 20th of last month.
The new-look Hawks gave a good account of themselves last weekend but suffered defeat at Dartford, while they earned a point against Eastbourne Borough during the week. They may have to face Fleet without talisman Torres who last played five weeks ago but has been out since with a leg injury.
With such a fluid lineup of late, it’s been difficult for Whitehawk to get any form of consistency together and they last won a league game way back in October against fellow strugglers Margate. That doesn’t make for pretty reading for any Hawks fan, but Woodman will be keen to build on the two recent encouraging displays under his management and with players of the quality of Mills and West in his ranks, he is eyeing an upset against the Fleet on home turf.