The last three players to reach 100 games for the Fleet all scored on their milestone appearances – Kenny Clark against Chelmsford, Danny Kedwell against Weston-super-Mare and Sean Shields against Warrington. It might be something of a tall order for the next Fleet centurion being that it’s Nathan Ashmore… but the goalkeeper isn’t ruling anything out.
“I like a challenge,” Ashmore said in an interview published in this weekend’s matchday programme. “So I wouldn’t mind [scoring]. I have already scored two from last-minute corners and penalties! So much has happened within these 100 games and in such a short space of time. I’ve enjoyed playing in every game and I’m looking forward to playing in many more.”
Ashmore’s landmark appearance comes hot on the heels of Sean Shields, who clocked up his 100th in the last home game at the Kuflink Stadium. Shields’ hundred has taken slightly longer to reach than Ashmore, who has enjoyed 99 straight league appearances since signing in March 2016.
“I feel like I’ve come on leaps and bounds since I first signed here and developed my all-round game,” Shields says, also in tomorrow’s programme. “Since returning [from loan], I have enjoyed my best season and a half to date. There are exciting times ahead.”
Shields and Ashmore are the first Daryl McMahon signings to mark the 100 and the Fleet manager is pleased that his own players are now reaching longevity in a red shirt. “They’ve been terrific players for the club,” McMahon told FleetOnline. “It’s good for the long-term development of the squad, it shows the players we sign are good players and players we want to keep and improve. Jack Powell’s not far behind them in terms of appearances, then we have Connors, McCoy, Winfield, Darren McQueen when fit, all racking up games. I’d like to think the players we signed in the summer will all come through the 100-game barrier too, last the pace at the club and clock up appearances.”
The Fleet boss is still trailing leads in the transfer market but underlined the need for patience in his pursuit. “It’s still much the same situation as last week,” he said. “The players that we’re trying to get in are decent players for this level and that means there are a few teams after them. We have to negotiate with players, clubs and agents to try and get them here. And as I said before, I’m not going to be held to ransom, particularly at this stage of the season and at the level we are. I want the right players. It’s easy enough to just get people in for the sake of it, but that won’t help us. If we don’t get our targets, we’ll kick on as we are. We have talented players and we are more than capable of seeing out the remaining months if that’s what we have to do.”
After the excellent draw at Aldershot, McMahon called for greater consistency, though felt tiredness hadn’t helped the cause, with the Fleet having played two games a week for the past five or six weeks. He made four changes last Saturday and was pleased with the manner in which his side adapted.
“We needed to freshen things up a little bit,” he said, “because the majority of the players had played throughout the Christmas period, clocked up a lot of minutes and we also needed a reaction having never got going against Warrington so it was a bit of both – tiredness and a shake-up – that resulted in the changes.
“Lawrie Wilson did well being pushed into midfield. He’s played probably most of his career in an attacking position rather than the right-back position He’s played there for Charlton and Bolton and he’s very comfortable there. The defence has proved very adaptable this season, particularly someone like Sam Magri who’s played left back, right back, centre half. All the defenders have adapted well wherever I’ve asked them to play or however I’ve asked them to play, be it a back four, or three at the back. And we’ve done that purposely this year, recruited flexible players who can not just cover a position, but slot in and play well in it.”
McMahon should only be missing Kenny Clark and Darren McQueen tomorrow as the rest of his squad have checked in without complaints this week. Fleet have won just one of their last five league games and as other teams in the Top 10 find a run of form, it is important for both ourselves and Boreham Wood to gain maximum points.
Luke Garrard’s team have enjoyed some decent results of late, with wins over Dagenham and Torquay and draws away at Sutton United and Leyton Orient to leave them four points ahead of the Fleet. But the Wood boss isn’t happy having seen his side concede 10 goals in four games – “a stat I absolutely hate” said Garrard – and slump to defeat at home to Dover last weekend.
After two seasons of consolidation at this level, Boreham Wood are going all out for the play-offs having recruited six players in recent weeks, most of them on loan. Bournemouth pair Joe Quigley and Ollie Harfield have come in on a temporary basis, alongside Michael Folivi (Watford), Noah Chesmain (Millwall) and Aaron Jarvis (Luton Town) while defender Alex Davey signed permanently from Cheltenham to cover the long-term injury to Dean Wells. Attacking wide man Blair Turgott, who scored 12 goals for Bromley last season, has also made his loan move from Stevenage a permanent one.
The danger men for Boreham Wood are Bruno Andrade and Angelo Balanta but in a very attacking squad, the visitors can also call on Ricky Shakes, Keiran Murtagh, Paul Benson, Shaun Jeffers and Bradley Ash. Right-back Kane Smith caught the eye in the home game against the Fleet while there are plenty of familiar faces in midfield with the likes of former Fleet man Mark Ricketts, plus one-time Dartford promotion winner Tom Champion.
This is the first game between the sides at this level at the Kuflink Stadium but Fleet and Boreham Wood have met in Kent on eight previous occasions since 1998. We have enjoyed three wins, four draws and just the one defeat on home soil, that coming in our promotion-winning season of 2001/02.
Car Park C at Ebbsfleet International is once again open for Fleet fans parking on matchday. The cost is £3.