Daryl McMahon expects a much better game of football against Chelmsford this weekend than the three which preceded it late last year when Fleet drew two blanks and conceded their FA Cup place to the Essex side. Caretaker manager Kevin Maher has given City a more attacking edge and drafted in a couple of loanees from Southend United and it has paid off handsomely, the Clarets winning their last four at home, scoring 14 goals in the process, plus taking three points at Havant in midweek to all but secure safety from the drop.
It may be the first time this year that Fleet are coming up against a side with little to play for (though Chelmsford could make themselves mathematically safe with a win and certain other results going in their favour) but McMahon is wary that might simply manifest itself in a carefree opposition expressing themselves without any pressure on their shoulders.
McMahon was at Havant on Tuesday night to see Chelmsford in action, and bumped into his former Fleet teammate Billy Bricknell. “I saw Billy on Tuesday – he was on the bench, but he didn’t play because of a back injury so I’m sure he’ll be desperate to get out there against us and hopefully he’s not got his shooting boots on!”
“In the league, it was probably our best performance of the season,” McMahon told Charles Webster referring to Fleet’s 0-0 draw at the Melbourne Stadium last October. “We were so dominant it was unbelievable but we couldn’t find a goal and the keeper was excellent for them. But they’re in good form themselves and they’re miles better than when we played them earlier in the season. They’re probably the best side we’ve faced in the last month or so.” (Listen to the full interview below)
The Fleet boss was understandably delighted with his side’s return to form against Hayes & Yeading after a Bank Holiday weekend that saw the title initiative pass to Sutton United. But Matt Godden’s four-goal blast certainly improved the mood in the camp
“I think we’re probably seeing Matt Godden having his best spell this season,” McMahon said. “He’s had a rough ride over a few years with injuries. This year he’s played pretty much every game he’s been fit. His all-round play for a young talent at this level and the level above, I don’t think there’s a better striker. But it’s not all on Matty Godden’s shoulders. Keds has been excellent, Parkesy’s chipped in with a couple of goals and Sean Shields has been excellent since he got back in the side too.”
Anthony Cook’s return towards the end of the Hayes game marked the winger’s 99th appearance for the club and he could make the 100 against his old club on Saturday. McMahon acknowledged, “It’s been a difficult spell for him. He’s come back and not hit the form we know he can and he’s had to bide his time. Other people have played well, Sean Shields and Jordan Parkes most recently have been excellent in wide positions, Sam Deering as well. We all know what Cookie brings to the table and I’m sure he’ll still play his part before the season’s done.”
Chelmsford’s chief threat lies in Southend midfield loanee Jack Bridge who has scored six goals in 11 games in his second temporary spell with the Clarets. Teammate Jason Williams has also returned from Roots Hall on loan and he could pair up with Bricknell. Experienced Bromley midfielder Reece Prestedge, who scored the winner for his parent club at Stonebridge Road last season, has also come in on loan. Chelmsford have scored only seven goals fewer than the Fleet this season and are on something of a roll, with three successive wins. They have beaten Maidstone twice and still have to go to Sutton so could have a big say in the destination of the title.
Caretaker manager Maher has presided over seven wins in his 13 games in charge and the club has been boosted by news of potential investment in the form of the Jade Global Group. That, combined with the knowledge they are pretty much safe from relegation, means Chelmsford’s players can enjoy rising to the challenge presented by ourselves and Sutton in the coming weeks.
Not only have Chelmsford held something of a voodoo sign over the Fleet this season but their form at Stonebridge Road has been excellent in recent years, winning on four of their last five visits (the only blot on that record was our 2-1 win in the 2011 play-off semi-final).
Fleet must reverse that sequence in front of another big crowd at Community Day if they are to seize back the advantage in the title race. “We can only concentrate on what we can affect ourselves,” McMahon told FleetOnline. “Anything else happening anywhere else will turn out as it will and we just have to keep doing what I know we’re capable of.”