Kenny Clark returns to Princes Park on Monday determined to put one over on his former club and give Fleet their first win at Dartford’s current stadium.
The central defender claimed in yesterday’s matchday programme interview that he and fellow former Dart Tom Bonner were going to treat it like any other game.
“Whenever you play against an old club there is that extra edge but I’m sure we will both be focused on the main thing which is getting three points,” he said.
But Clark is equally determined to maintain what he calls the “great buzz” around the Fleet at present by putting one over the old enemy.
“It’s going to be a great game , very similar to Maidstone where there was an unbelievable atmosphere and obviously the rivalry between Dartford and Ebbsfleet is unbelievable, it’s gone on for years,” Clark told BBC Radio Kent’s Matt Cole and Charles Webster.
“We’ve got to prepare ourselves right, look after ourselves over the weekend because it’s going to be a very very tough game. Some players will have been at other teams where there’s been a hell of a rivalry as well so whatever comes our way we’ll be prepared for.
“Comparing it to Maidstone, you are focusing on your game and you’re more zoned in than anything but you can hear the crowd, hear your fans getting behind us. Going away obviously they’re going to have more fans than us but it’s a great atmosphere to play in.”
Reflecting on the draw with Whitehawk, Clark feels the second-half performance can be carried forward this season. “We know we can be better than that first half. We did it last week against Wealdstone, started slowly but credit to us, it shows our determination and grit to come back two games on the spin. It just shows how much we want it this year,” he said.
“There’s still more to come. There’s so much belief, there’s a great buzz around the changing room and around the club at the minute. And even when we’re 2-0 down, we never give up, we’ve got that never-say-die attitude. It’s such a great place to be at the minute, everyone’s on the same wavelength and wants to win so much.”
For all the bravado following yesterday’s comeback, Fleet boss Daryl McMahon won’t want his side to have to produce a second-half revival on too many occasions this season. All but one goal this season has been scored in the second half and Fleet supporters have by and large seen a marked improvement in their team after the break in every game.
“I expect it to be a noisy, eventful game,” McMahon said. “Dartford had a good win against Margate, another Kent derby, but we go there in good spirits. We’ve four wins and a draw and we’ve come back from 2-0 down against a very good side so we go there in a confident mood.”
Of the likely Fleet line-up, only Joe Howe and Tom Bonner have previous experience of a Fleet-Dartford derby, with the latter of course a Dartford player in those days. Both Matt Godden and Kenny Clark were Dartford players at the time of our FA Cup clash in 2013/14 but neither was available for the tie or replay.
Of the Dartford squad, only two any Fleet links – reserve goalkeeper Jamie Turner won the Ryman League with the Fleet and of course had a brief spell back at Stonebridge Road last season. Striker Andy Pugh, meanwhile, was a very brief loanee for the Fleet at the time of our recent FA Cup clash but played no part in that one.
A number of Tony Burman’s side, however, have played in numerous north Kent derbies before including skipper Elliott Bradbrook together with Ryan Hayes, Danny Harris, Lee Burns and Lee Noble.
Former Dover midfielder Barry Cogan is another familiar face but it’s Elliott Bradbrook’s brother, Tom, who will need careful watching, having scored five goals already this season, while academy graduate Kaka Dembele has been gaining good reviews.
Fleet have recorded a draw and two defeats in their three previous visits to Princes Park and have to go back to 1983 for their last league win in Dartford, which came at Watling Street. The Darts lie only three points behind the Fleet having played a game more. A decent 2-0 win against Margate playing with 10 men for more than half an hour came on Saturday, to follow up wins over Eastbourne and Concord. The Darts were disappointed to have only drawn against Sutton, while their two defeats have come against Gosport and Hemel Hempstead Town.