Ebbsfleet United head into their first of two meetings with Bromley inside a month desperate to reignite their league campaign and close the gap on the teams above them. It’s the first meeting between the two pre-season favourites for the title since Bromley bowed out of the play-offs last May (pictured) with the visitors in better shape in terms of points going into tonight’s game.
Lying second in the table, but with games in hand over leaders Boreham Wood, Mark Goldberg’s side are in pole position for the Vanarama Conference South title. Indeed they could probably afford to lose tonight’s game and still retain the upper hand over their rivals in the race for the top.
The Fleet, on the other hand, must set out to gain three points and manager Jamie Day believes they are equipped for the job, even if recent league results have left him wanting more. “We have it in us to beat Bromley, of course,” Day told FleetOnline. “Equally, we know if we’re not on our game, if we don’t perform, then they’re good enough to pick us off. Against both Staines and Bishop’s Stortford we’ve conceded early goals, ones I’m disappointed with, but then we’ve followed that up with a goal or two and good football up to half-time. But our second-half performances didn’t kick on and that’s what we need to do, get a little bit more creativity going forward.”
Sean Shields, who was sick on the morning of the Stortford game and so not risked for the full 90 minutes, is in contention for a starting place tonight. “We were going to start him Saturday,” Day said, “but he’d been ill and we didn’t think it worth the risk to send him straight out into that. But I was pleased with him in the 20 minutes he got, he looked lively.
“Three points is the goal for us. One is not the end of the world, I do think we have time – though it is running it close – to close the gap even with a draw. But a win obviously pushes us closer to the other teams and puts the pressure on them. This is a game you want to be involved in.”
The suspension for Kenny Clark, like his opposite number Rob Swaine who was red-carded on Saturday for Bromley, does not come into effect until February 21st (or the 28th for Swaine) so he could figure. Anthony Acheampong’s recovery from concussion has received a setback after he contracted an eye infection as a result and so he misses a further week.
All the talk tonight, of course, will be on the returning Anthony Cook and Ben May who both played key roles in seeing off Bromley in last season’s play-offs. Cook was substituted half an hour into the Ravens’ game against Hayes & Yeading on Saturday and will need to keep a cool head in what is likely to be a no-holds-barred encounter tonight.
Bromley’s new-look strike force now includes Cook, May and the returning Bradley Goldberg who bagged 23 goals last season, with 10-goal Moses Ademola in support. Pierre-Joseph Dubois has been out through injury of late and he is likely to remain on the sidelines. Unlike last season, when Goldberg and Dubois hit 40+ goals between them, Bromley haven’t been relying on one or two outlets for goals. Having signed Adam Birchall, Jamie Slabber and Damien Scannell in the summer, along with Duncan Culley who has come and gone since the start of the season, those players’ lack of game time suggested that Bromley hadn’t quite got the mix right – and they have added to their squad piece by piece throughout the campaign.
Birchall and Slabber remain involved, however, with the latter coming off the bench to grab a late equaliser against Hayes & Yeading on Saturday.
There aren’t likely to be too many surprises tonight with players on both sides all too familiar with each other. Cook and May aside, Ugo Udoji, Dean Pooley and Brendan Kieran have all played for their opponents tonight, while there are plenty of former Dagenham, Chelmsford, Gillingham, Salisbury and Grays teammates lining up against one another tonight.