Fleet must look to bounce back from Saturday’s first defeat of the season in arguably their toughest test yet this season at Chelmsford’s Melbourne Stadium.
For the second week in succession, it’s a swift Monday turnaround from Saturday’s action and Daryl McMahon must be hoping his side can produce a similar display as that which saw Margate despatched 4-0 on Bank Holiday Monday.
It would be a surprise if there weren’t changes in the Fleet starting lineup given that McMahon introduced two substitutes at half-time at Gosport, clearly unhappy with what he’d seen at Privett Park. Danny Kedwell got through a 20-minute runout in that one but Bradley Bubb and Darren McQueen may well fancy their chances with Fleet having fired blanks away from home, either side of the 4-0 victory at Stonebridge Road.
Mark Phillips has had a luckless start to the season, his comeback of last Monday put on ice by a car crash the following day and his availability remains to be seen, while Stuart Lewis’s groin injury also ruled him out at Gosport.
Kenny Clark and Anthony Cook return to their old club tonight, while Jack Powell featured for Chelmsford in a pre-season game and Sean Shields spent time on loan there last season. Clark told FleetOnline, “Chelmsford’s always a hard place to go. They’re in form and you know as a player when you go there, you’re in for it, so I’m sure we’ll prepare right for it. You want to play well when you play your old clubs. It’ll be good to see a few old faces but I’m an Ebbsfleet boy now and I’ve got a job to do.”
Chelmsford’s summer overhaul has taken a while to produce the desired results but three wins and three clean sheets in as many matches has seen the Clarets rise to seventh place and Rod Stringer’s side produced an abundance of chances in their 1-0 win over Weston on Saturday, certainly more than the scoreline suggests.
Stringer has shown no mercy in his opening weeks as Chelmsford manager, releasing former Fleet goalkeeper Joe Welch – who only arrived in the summer – after a few indifferent displays and replacing him with former Braintree, Bishop’s Stortford and Bolton man Ross Fitzsimons. With the former Fleet trio of Billy Bricknell, Phil Walsh and Robbie Willmott likely to feature tonight, the Clarets can also call on six-goal Shamir Mullings who will be the main threat to Fleet’s defence tonight.
Fellow striker Shaun Jeffers, formerly of Cheltenham, Newport County and Yeovil Town, is also off the mark this season with four to his name and between them, the two City strikers are responsible for 10 of their side’s 11 goals so far this season.
Willmott, by all accounts, has rediscovered his form since his switch to Chelmsford and has been providing a steady supply of opportunities for the in-form strike force.
That said, Fleet have scored more and conceded fewer goals than Chelmsford so far and with a decent record in Essex, need to focus on the positives in what will no doubt be a tough encounter.
Last season’s FA Cup and league meetings with Chelmsford at the Melbourne coincided with a sticky patch where a previously unstoppable Fleet began to lose their way a little and travelling fans must be hoping the reverse is true this time around and that their side can kick-start a run of form that sees them heading back up the National League South table.