Fleet play host to Dover Athletic for the first time since the promotion final four years ago that sent the Whites into non-league’s top flight looking to curtail their visitors’ play-off hopes and thereby enhance their own in the process.
In so doing, Fleet will have to turn around a poor home record against Dover that hasn’t seen us beat them on home soil since a Kent Senior Cup tie at Stonebridge Road 10 years ago. For a home win in a league game, you have to go further back still – some 40 years – to a 4-1 win in the Southern League when winger Steve Brown (not our former manager!) scored a hat-trick.
Both sides technically have their respective play-off destinies in their own hands. If Fleet were to win both their games in hand and triumph over Dover on Bank Holiday Monday, they would be in pole position; by the same token, were Dover to win at the Kuflink Stadium, they would effectively end the Fleet’s interest in the end-of-season knockout phase by moving 10 points clear.
Having played just two games in March, Fleet face a busy April, with two long trips north in a run of four away matches out of five to end the campaign. Daryl McMahon will be hoping his side are less rusty against his former club Dover than they appeared to be at home to Maidenhead, when the long lay-off seemed to work in the opposition’s favour. He’ll be without former Dover favourite Sam Magri and the goalscorer in our clash at Crabble last August, Darren McQueen, who shows few signs of making it back before the close season.
Dover, after a minor blip in February that saw them lose three league games, seem to have settled and recorded some morale-boosting wins in recent weeks over the likes of leaders Macclesfield Town as well as Leyton Orient. But having recorded a goalless draw at Barrow and then surrendered a lead late on at Eastleigh last week, they’re probably not as comfortable as they might have hoped to have been going into this final Kent derby of the season. Like the Fleet, they sat out a rainy Good Friday after their scheduled home match against Tranmere fell victim to the wet weather late on.
The Whites have yet to win any of their Kent clashes in 2017/18, drawing four and losing one so far, while the Fleet have enjoyed a double over Maidstone plus a win at home to Bromley. That record probably won’t worry Chris Kinnear too much as he plots another win on the ground where he spent a season as a player.
Dover have the second meanest defence in the division and with Fleet fairly low down the goalscoring charts of the top-half teams, the form book doesn’t hint at a high-scoring game. But Dover’s game doesn’t hinge on their defence and in Ryan Bird and Mitch Pinnock, they have a strike force with 22 goals between them this season. Add in recent loan signings Keanu Marsh-Brown from Forest Green and Ade Azeez from Cambridge to the mix and there’s plenty of firepower at Kinnear’s disposal. Other recent recruits include former Maidstone and Dagenham defender Kevin Lokko who has already found the net against us this season.
Former Fleet midfielder Liam Bellamy has also returned to the Kent coast recently and, alongside Dover keeper Mitch Walker, will be the only survivors from the 2014 promotion final with McMahon having hung up his boots since and Dean Rance suspended that day.
The match will be segregated, with Dover fans allocated the Swanscombe End. Car parking is available at Ebbsfleet International Car Park C for £3. Please be aware that any cars parked along Thames Way by the roundabout are liable to be ticketed.