Fleet will look to get back to winning ways in the league against a resurgent Oxford City, unbeaten in all of last season’s three encounters between the two clubs. City have lost only one of their last six Vanarama National League South matches and picked up maximum points in the last three to move fourth in the form table.
Despite Fleet’s hiccups of late, taking just one point from a possible six, Daryl McMahon will point to his side’s impressive record before that and, having seen them get back to winning ways in the Buildbase FA Trophy last weekend, he is confident his side can embark on another run.
Fleet will be without suspended duo Dave Winfield and Mark Phillips, with Winfield completing his ban following the end of this 90 minutes. Louis John performed well against Harrow Borough in that position last Saturday while McMahon is eyeing more cover to the centre of defence, with Phillips in the middle of his ban.
Stuart Lewis remains on the sidelines but is due to resume full training next week as Fleet prepare for a busy programme that includes the next round of the Trophy and a festive double-header against Dartford. And Bradley Bubb, of course, returns to his former employers in a rich vein of form – it was his late penalty that denied the Fleet all three points in last season’s corresponding fixture.
They face an Oxford City side who suffered FA Trophy humiliation last weekend at home to Ryman Division One South outfit South Park but manager Justin Merritt expects his team to brush off that setback and get back to climbing the table. A troubled beginning to the season saw Oxford lose six of their first eight games and players of the likes of summer signing Liam Enver-Marum were released only a month or two after signing.
But since then, Merritt’s side has had a more settled look. The middle of the park has plenty of experience with ex-Wealdstone man Scott Davies lining up alongside former Basingstoke player Shaun McAuley and one-time Luton and Southport midfielder Godfrey Poku. Winger Kynan Isaac, who caused Fleet a few problems last season, has however been released this past week. City have also drafted in former Swindon and England youth goalkeeper Tyrell Belford after regular Jack Stevens was recalled by parent club Oxford United and they added much-travelled striker Jefferson Louis to their ranks in the past month as well.
Davies has scored four from midfield, just one behind top scorer Mike Fondop who had signed for Margate in the summer but instead moved on to City and he struck a brace against the Gate in a 5-0 win at Hartsdown Park.
That was one of just a few impressive results for City of late, with wins at Hampton and Poole. However, City have struggled on their own ground, with just two wins over fellow strugglers Welling and Bishop’s Stortford at Marsh Lane to date, compounded by exits in both the Trophy and FA Cup on home soil.
An above-average crowd is expected for the first of four games at home for City as the club have distributed 400 tickets to local youth leagues ahead of Fleet’s visit.