As the man who scored against Saturday’s opponents Bath City in last season’s corresponding fixture (pictured), Shane Huke could have been forgiven for reminding his manager that if he needs any added firepower, then the centre-back has history against the Romans.
In an interview for Saturday’s programme, Huke laughed off suggestions that he could repeat the feat this time around. “I suppose I was close to top scorer before I got injured against Dartford!” he said. “Seriously, I’d be worried if we hadn’t created chances to be honest, but we are creating so many and I’ve never seen keepers as good in this league as against us in the last few games. This year we are definitely stronger, we are challengers and we all know we can achieve great things. We all believe this is our year.”
Huke, who had made the centre-back position his own before his injury at Dartford, scored in three successive games at the time of his goal against Bath. “I felt the happiest and most comfortable last year as any time in my career and was enjoying every game. I was really enjoying my football up until that injury, more than in a lot of previous years.”
He can likely sympathise with Michael West who had good news this week as he was able to join in some light fitness work on the training pitch for the first time and will now gradually step up his physical activities.
Alex Osborn has experienced an aggravation of his previous injury and he will sit out full training until the Fleet medical department is confident he has fully recovered. However, Steve Brown is hoping he will have cover in place as one of his transfer targets is set to put pen to paper on a deal imminently.
Dean Pooley’s loan to Leatherhead leaves Brown with a core 17 or so players to choose from. The manager will have to make a decision on whether to persist with the recalled Matt Godden depending on the striker’s fitness after coming off early against Staines while Dean Rance should have recovered from a similar knock.
Bath didn’t have the best of starts losing three of their first few games by three- or four-goal margins. They have picked up, however, and have lost only one of the last six league games and have also won away at Boreham Wood and Sutton this season. Having started the last campaign fairly slowly, they picked up considerably through the middle and latter stages of 2013/14 and were only denied a play-off place because they’d played too many games compared to their rivals going into the run-in.
Their squad is largely unchanged from last season, though they plundered Weston-super-Mare for Chas Hemmings and Ashley Kington (who scored here last season) as well as drafting in Frankie Artus who previously played for Grimsby and Hereford. Ex-Fleet defender/striker Phil Walsh suffered an injury back in August that originally seemed extremely serious but he escaped a suspected ankle break and is now pushing for a November return – though Saturday is likely too early for him.
Elsewhere, the Romans have plenty of firepower in David Pratt (seven goals this season) and Andy Watkins who scored twice against the Fleet at Twerton Park in March. New signing Nick McCootie from Paulton Rovers has been getting a start of late, while goalscoring midfielder Ross Stearn is one to watch once again this season.
For all their good form of late, however, Bath will likely have bad memories of a 7-1 thrashing recently at the hands of lower-league East Thurrock United in the FA Cup, a catastrophe that has prompted the club’s board of directors to promise a “thorough review” of the way the club is run.