As if a constant selection headache isn’t enough for Daryl McMahon, the Fleet boss has the added conundrum of fitting in all the Fleet’s attacking players and it’s a tweak in formation that is allowing him to do so.
McMahon saw his troops rally after the shock of an early goal and he shifted Sam Magri back across to the right side of the pitch, slotting Myles Weston in behind Sean Shields to give his side fresh impetus.
“With the players we’ve got, to try and get as many attacking players in the squad as we have, we’ve got to tweak the shape sometimes to get players on the pitch,” McMahon told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster. “In that top half of the pitch, at home today, you’ve got Shields, Weston, Kedwell, Whitely, Adams, Rance, Drury… they’re hard to play against for anybody if we get it right and our tempo is right. As the game went on we got better at that and Luke Coulson coming on had an impact, Cheek had a good chance when he came on as well.
“The first 15-20 minutes, we started really slow – Aldershot moved the ball well like they do. Then when we changed shape and put Weston to left-back and tweaked it a little bit, I thought we got on top and didn’t really come off being on top.”
As revealed by McMahon in the press box at Barnet last week, the Fleet coaching staff are deploying what they call ‘the Box’ – pairs of players, one in front of the other, and two wide men.
“Brazil in the Seventies played in a back four with a ‘box’,” said the manager. “They were alright to be fair! It just gives us different passing options to try and fit the players into a formation when it doesn’t fit into a ‘normal’ formation, shall we say, to get the attacking players on the pitch so we’ve got to think of something different.”
And his attacking players were certainly to the fore this afternoon, Sean Shields scoring twice, Corey Whitely running at the Aldershot defence, while Andy Drury, Ebou Adams and Dean Rance held the line in midfield.
“Sean’s got to score more goals,” McMahon said, as the winger reached 17 goals for the club. “We spoke about that in the summer with him, because he can go left and right he should be able to create goalscoring opportunities for himself and today he took them… a great finish for the second one, fantastic finish.
“[Andy Drury’s] had a really good training week, he’s been excellent. Today he was terrific. His brain’s terrific and he knows when to drift into the box. He probably can’t get in there like he used to 10 years ago but he knows when to arrive, his timing’s very good and he’s a good finisher.”
Drury had Dean Rance alongside him for the latter’s first start of the season and the club’s longest-serving player was immediately in the thick of it.
“I’ve played with Rancey so I know what it’s like to play next to him,” McMahon said. “He’s been outstanding for the club into his sixth season. He deserved his place today. I thought when he came on at Barnet last week he made a real impact but we know we’ve got competition in there: Jack Powell, Ebou Adams, Jack Payne.
“I said this last week, I think the performances at home have been good, we have created chances. We haven’t got the goals that we deserved. It was good to win and I thought we could have had more.”
Fleet came back from an early deficit but McMahon hailed his players’ character, knowing they wouldn’t crumble despite having a few anxious moments in the opening 20 minutes. “We can go back to the play-off final against Chelmsford [in discussing] the character,” he said.” Aldershot away last season: character; Dover at home, last season: character. The character of this team is never ever in question in my eyes. I know some people might think it is, but for me it never is.”
And the Fleet boss had some words of comfort for his opposite number who finds Aldershot second from bottom tonight after their first league defeat in Northfleet since 2002.
“I think Gary’s one of the best in the league, he’s won it before,” McMahon said. “His teams play good football and he’s had a difficult time in the sense he’s lost a lot of good players and it’s hard to replace the amount he’s lost and I’m sure across the season he’ll build that side into a winning side.”
Listen to the interview below.