Daryl McMahon said the fact the majority of those leaving the Kuflink Stadium on Saturday afternoon were disappointed showed how far his squad have come in 2017. It can’t have escaped notice that at the end of 2016 Fleet were coming off the back of a defeat at Dartford and well adrift in the National South title race and 12 months later his side were feeling let down with a draw against play-off semi-finalists Dagenham & Redbridge.
“We’re disappointed to not win the game from the position we were in and I think that shows how far we’ve come in 2017 that we played Dagenham & Redbridge at home and we’re disappointed that we drew,” McMahon told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster. “Our objective from the start of the season was to be competitive and I think we are.
“If you look at us from the first game of the season till now, we’re a far better team. Earlier on, we were a little bit too expansive and a little bit too open sometimes and I think you look at us now and we’re a team that looks like it’s going to win games, get points, be hard to beat. There’s still a lot more growing for us and hopefully we can do that.”
McMahon felt his side weren’t quite firing on all cylinders in a second half where the defenders certainly earned their corn.
“[The performance was] average for us to be honest. I thought we were running on empty a bit,” he said. “I thought we probably didn’t do enough really. Dagenham will say they got into our territory quite a bit and if you keep letting them in there and they keep slinging balls into your box and around your box, something might fall for them. It was a big deflection to beat Ashmore but it happens.
“We’re disappointed and it doesn’t matter how the goal goes in, I’d rather someone scored an overhead kick. Goals like that are the frustrating ones but it happens and we let them into those areas too easily to get crosses into the box or shots away. We defended the box manfully for 90 minutes but it’s another building block for us against a big club and a big team.”
And the Fleet boss pointed to the strength of the Dagenham bench, with his opposite number John Still able to bring on top scorers Morgan Ferrier and Corey Whitley plus another striker in Mason Bloomfield to pressurise the home defence, as the level his own squad needs to reach.
“I thought their bench was brilliant,” McMahon said. “Two of the best players in the league in Ferrier and Whitely and it shows the strength of their squad. We’re not quite there yet, it’s probably a bit of a reality check as well in the sense of everyone getting excited about we’re near the play-offs, et cetera. In terms of the whole squad, we’re probably a little bit weaker than other teams and that showed with the strength of their group today.”
Dean Rance’s performance in the middle plus Bradley Bubb’s 10-minute cameo were also plus points for the manager. “It’s good to have Bubb back,” McMahon said. “He got through the game as well so we have him to count on as well now which is good. Games against teams like Dagenham, with lots of second balls, Dean [Rance] loves that, he wins tackles, keeps ticking over for us, I thought he did well today.”
Fleet are next up in the return fixture at Bromley on New Year’s Day in front of the BT Sport cameras and 2018 dawns with the Fleet in great form. And it’s something McMahon hopes his side can build on after a very fine 2017.
“We’re in decent form the last two months,” he said. “We’re playing some good stuff, we look strong. These periods are important to pick points up where the games are so close together. Hopefully we can build on it Monday night against Bromley on the TV and put another good performance in.”
Listen to the full interview below.