Fleet go in search of their first home win of 2018 against opponents they might have hoped to brush aside some months ago. And while the Solihull Moors team visiting the Kuflink Stadium for the first time this weekend are still marooned in the bottom four, as they have been all season, Saturday’s game offers them a chance of finally escaping the drop zone.
Top of the form table over the past four games, Moors under new manager Mark Yates have been scoring goals and winning games since seeing off relegation rivals Barrow at the end of December. Such a run will doubtless give the Midlands club plenty of confidence but Fleet boss Daryl McMahon refutes the suggestion that his own side are lacking in that department.
“No, I don’t think we’re lacking confidence at all,” he told FleetOnline. “We didn’t play well against Boreham Wood and Tranmere are the best side in this division by a country mile. We’re not going to fear teams because of a few defeats. The players have confidence in their abilities and I have confidence in them and we just need to go out and show that. Solihull are on a great run but great runs end as do poor ones and we’re keen to get going.”
Sean Shields, who sat out the Tranmere match with an injury, was being assessed over the final two days of training this week but McMahon was hopeful on his progress while there were no reports of any new concerns in the treatment room. Kenny Clark, Febian Brandy and Darren McQueen continue to be sidelined, with McQueen optimistic of undergoing some running in the next fortnight. McMahon insisted, however, that he was being measured very much on “a week by week basis” and that any rushing back for the striker would be self-defeating.
Fleet are effectively restricted to an 18-man squad currently and McMahon and Dean Pooley have spent evenings this week and last running the rule over potential recruits. Pooley told FleetOnline, “We’ve been working hard to strengthen the squad, casting our eye over players. The gap to seventh remains seven points and a play-off spot is still definitely there for grabs. I can assure fans that none of us are sitting back letting the season fade away and if the right player can be acquired without silly money being asked, we’ll do our very best to pursue that. We haven’t been able to do it in January for various reasons but we’re working hard to fix it.”
Back-to-back 3-0 defeats haven’t unduly harmed Fleet’s position in the league table and McMahon felt that, while the scoreline at Prenton Park showed no improvement on the week before, the performance warranted a little more encouragement. “I thought the overall performance was decent, just on the day theirs was much better than ours,” the manager said, “and we conceded three really poor goals from long balls over and in behind us. You can’t do that against teams as good as Tranmere and we need to cut that out, but we were better than against Boreham Wood and we need to be better still against Solihull.”
The visitors have enjoyed several three-goal returns in recent games, none more impressive than a 3-1 win at troubled Dagenham & Redbridge two weeks ago. The Moors lost top scorer Dapo Alofayan to West Ham last week but new signing Adi Yussuf from Barrow scored twice on his debut to ease any fears they might lose a cutting edge. Former Coventry youngster Kwame Thomas, initially with Moors on loan, has now been recruited on a permanent basis while Yates’ overhaul of the squad has also seen another front man in Alex Reid (Fleetwood) join on loan. Reid has played against the Fleet already this season, for Wrexham.
Only four players remain from the side that lost 3-1 at home to the Fleet in October, including goalscorer and midfield general Darren Carter who won promotion with Forest Green last season. Otherwise Yates has reshaped his side, sending several players out on loan and allowing others to depart, as he looks to pull off an escape that appeared unthinkable before Christmas. Former Celtic youngster Fiacre Kelleher, on loan from Oxford, said of that: “Since the gaffer’s come in we’ve really worked on our shape and getting a solid base. We feel like there’s nothing to fear in the league anymore.”
Fleet will certainly have to instil some fear in the Moors once more if they are to secure three points at the Kuflink Stadium on Saturday.