Not only is Daryl McMahon facing a second of his former clubs straight after the trip to Dover this coming weekend, but he’s also set to see an old face from his youth.
Eastleigh midfielder Mark Yeates goes back a rather long way with the Ebbsfleet United manager, and McMahon will hope to avoid any playground spats as he explained to FleetOnline: “We went to school together, played in the same Sunday League team together. He’s a couple of years younger than me but we go back a way. He’s gone on to have a great career over here, so it’ll be nice to go up against him”.
Yeates played for Cherry Orchard FC in the south of Dublin as did McMahon for a spell and both players went on to careers in England, with former Irish U21 international Yeates having a couple of games for Spurs before going on to have a long Football League career with the likes of Colchester United, Sheffield United, Watford, Bradford City (where he scored to knock Chelsea out of the FA Cup in 2015) and most recently Notts County.
And McMahon has lots of praise for his former club, where he was captain for a spell in 2012. “They’ve been in this league for three years and have lots of talent,” McMahon said. “Richard Hill’s a good coach, the owner Stewart Donald is a fantastic chairman – he really backs the club and managers – and they’ve got players like Sam Wood, Danny Hollands, Craig McAllister. You just look through their group and it’s littered with players who have played hundreds of league games.”
Indeed Eastleigh’s squad is a comparatively old one, with much of it packed with players in their late twenties and thirties. By contrast, McMahon thinks Fleet’s younger heads will have to meet the challenge of a side more experienced on paper: “Barring Keds, we’re very different, we’re largely 25 or under,” McMahon said. “We’re very young, we’re athletic and we have lots of qualities. But we’re missing a lot of senior players, too, and the young lads will have to step up and make a real influence in the team.”
McMahon wasn’t overly optimistic about any of his injured players returning to action this weekend. Myles Weston is another added to the ‘wait and see list’ with a hamstring injury while Andy Drury faces a battle to be fit to line up against his former employers. With the game on Bank Holiday Monday taking up a training day, Fleet players underwent a cryotherapy recovery session on Wednesday before returning to training on Thursday and the boss is pleased he can finally get Chris Bush into a session.
“Monday’s game interrupted training a bit this week so it was good to get them back on Thursday and check on the walking wounded,” said McMahon. “It will be Bushy’s first few training sessions but I’ve been pleased with the defenders. Chris has done well, he got four bookings in five for Chelmsford and none in the two games for us which is exactly what we wanted. He’s been excellent without any training and has played really well.
“We’ve probably not had the same defensive lineup since the first week of the season. Bagasan Graham’s come in now, too, and he will only get better and better. He’s athletic and will get fitter and more prepared mentally for this level as he progresses. He has a good left foot and carries the ball well and has fit into a 4-4-2 and a 3-5-2. He has the legs to get up and down. Bush, with his left foot, gives you a nice balance in the side as well and he and Bags have got an understanding having played for Chelmsford together.”
McMahon is still four weeks away from getting any idea about skipper Dave Winfield’s likely return. “It’s a six-week monitoring of the injury, so we have four more to wait, and only then will we know the exact course of action, whether it’s surgery or just lengthy rehab. Either way it won’t be anything quick, so it’ll be a minimum of two months rehab once he’s properly assessed and that’s the best case.”
Fleet and Eastleigh have drawn 10 games between them this season and, like McMahon, Richard Hill has had a number of injuries to contend with. Defender Reda Johnson has returned but Ryan Creswell is out, Gavin Hoyte a doubt and striker Paul McCallum has missed the beginning of the season. Influential midfielder Sam Togwell and four-goal Ben Williamson also limped out of Monday’s game v Aldershot and they along with defender Gavin Hoyte will face fitness tests.
Although the Spitfires squad is fairly advanced in years, 20-year-old Bournemouth loanee Sam Matthews will be one to watch, while another temporary signing – Callum Howe from Lincoln City – has been brought in over the last few weeks.
Familiar faces in the Eastleigh squad include goalkeeper Ross Flitney (Bromley and Whitehawk), strikers Chris Zebroski (who played for Torquay against us at Wembley in 2008) and former Fleet loanee Craig McAllister, plus Ross Stearn who was a member of Sutton’s National South-winning team.
For Danny Kedwell, he’s also up against the manager who signed him for Gillingham, with Gravesend-born Andy Hessenthaler now assistant at Eastleigh.