After a week of records and milestones tumbling, Fleet will probably settle for something much more mundane this Saturday as long as it includes three points.
Opponents Hampton & Richmond Borough were the last club to take points off the Fleet at Stonebridge Road back in November and then they produced a display full of attacking endeavour. Back then, Hampton had outscored Fleet by six goals in the league table but all that has since changed, with Daryl McMahon’s side now the division’s top scorers and are 11 better off than their opponents.
Indeed Fleet’s current tally of 81 is already higher than the end of season total of any other Ebbsfleet United side since the name change in 2007. Without a single striker in the top 10 National League South goalscorers, Fleet are nevertheless on course to better 2001/02’s 90 goals – though would perhaps have to go some to top the other two bests (99 in 1992/93 and 109 in 1957/58).
And with five or six players still in competition for the top league goalscorer gong at the club, there’s plenty of friendly and healthy competition amongst a squad that is becoming ever more clinical.
They will need to be at their clinical best against a Hampton side that may have lost its way since top scorers Jamal Lowe and Nicke Kambamba departed for Portsmouth but are still seeking a top five finish to make the play-offs.
The Beavers made short work of Whitehawk in midweek, winning 3-1 to boost their chances and move within five points of fifth-placed Poole. And with sixth place a possible marker for play-off qualification given ground-grading concerns at Poole and Hungerford, it’s a further boost for Hampton’s promotion push. And as one of Alan Devonshire’s old employers, they may also be keen to do their former boss a favour as Maidenhead travel to crisis club Bishop’s Stortford.
In place of the free-scoring Lowe and Kabamba, Hampton brought in Duncan Culley (ex-Bromley and Whitehawk) and he’s scored five in seven games. Another recent arrival is former Chelmsford hotshot Shamir Mullings who began the season with the Clarets only to earn a big-money move to Forest Green Rovers. He’s now been despatched to the Beveree on loan. The Beavers aren’t short of goals in midfield either, with former Fleet winger Brendan Kiernan on 12 and Michael Kamara, who scored two in midweek, on five.
Alan Dowson’s side began the season in fantastic form but have had a mixed bag of results since Christmas, with four wins from 10 games. In two and a half months from December to early March, their only wins came over strugglers Bishop’s Stortford and Margate but they have picked up again since and have scored three times in each of their last two games, beating Hungerford Town and earning a goalless draw at Maidenhead in recent weeks. They surely represent one of Fleet’s toughest remaining games this season but McMahon’s side have negotiated pretty much every hurdle since New Year’s Day and will know what they have to do.
Fleet have visited the Beveree only once in the last 15 years, a 4-2 win there in February 2011 helping Liam Daish’s side into the play-offs. In all, our record there has seen three wins, two draws and four defeats – so it’s high time the Fleet balanced up that wins column!