Both Ebbsfleet and Chester fans have good cause to remember the last time the teams clashed at the Deva Stadium (or the Swansway Chester Stadium as it is known): in February 2010, Fleet won 2-1 in what turned out to be the old Chester City’s last ever game in front of just 460 supporters. Chester were subsequently expelled from the Conference and Fleet’s much-needed three points, together with the goals and appearances, were erased from existence, contributing greatly to relegation at the end of the season where we finished two points adrift of safety.
It’s all water under the bridge now, of course, with the reconstituted Blues having won three league titles in succession to claim back their top-tier place in 2013 and Fleet back for a second stab at this level since that 2010 relegation.
A better reminder of the Deva Stadium was Fleet’s 1-0 FA Cup victory there against the eventual Conference champions in 2003 and Daryl McMahon will be hoping that a repeat of even such a narrow victory can set his side on their way in converting draws into wins. Fleet haven’t lost in their four previous trips to the Deva while Chester haven’t won at home since December 2016 – coincidentally when Fleet last lost a league game, so any superstitious Fleet fans might not want to concentrate too heavily on that statistic.
All the talk in Cheshire, of course, is of the vacant managerial hotseat, Jon McCarthy having been sacked after his side’s 2-0 defeat at 10-man Solihull in midweek that leaves them in the bottom four, albeit only three points behind the Fleet. Player/assistant manager Tom Shaw has taken over on a caretaker basis and Fleet will, of course, have to be wary of the traditional “reaction” performance that often follows the dismissal of a manager. He said this week, “[Ebbsfleet] have got some good players but we’re not concerned about them this weekend, we’re going to exploit all of our strengths and attributes. I think I’m going to have to change certain things just to try and find the spark within this group. I will tweak certain bits but nothing wholesale.”
Chester’s only win this season was certainly impressive enough, beating Aldershot on their own patch, and they can add Sutton and Macclesfield to the Solihull defeat. There is plenty of experience in the Chester side, with players like Kingsley James, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Ross Hannah and Paul Turnbull all having faced the Fleet before for various clubs. Central midfielder Lucas Dawson is the current top scorer, with the former Stoke academy and AFC Telford player having scored three goals this season.
Like the Fleet, Chester have had injury problems with all four strikers hit with ailments at some point already this season. Defender Ryan Astles is struggling with a foot injury and Chester landed Fleetwood Town youngster Nathan Sheron on loan to bolster their numbers last week.
Fleet will welcome Sam Magri back from international duty to give some competition in defence once more and Dean Rance suffered no ill effects from his second-half runout v Eastleigh. Magri’s return cancels out the need to rush Kenny Clark or Jack Connors back, especially with Fleet facing three tough games in the next eight days.
All information for visiting fans to the Swansway Chester Stadium is available here. There will be live commentary from BBC Radio Kent and match coverage via @EUFCOfficial on Twitter.