Fleet goalscorer Dean Rance praised last night’s travelling support and says he is determined to give the Fleet fans something to sing about on Sunday in the return leg. “The supporters were excellent, they always have been,” he told BBC Radio Kent’s Matt Cole. “They’ve just got to get behind us again. It felt like a home game again today. It shows the size of the club. They deserve it over the last couple of years the way they’ve been. They’ve stuck with us and hopefully we’ll give them something to cheer about, especially on Sunday.”
Rance notched his third goal of the season courtesy of a deflection but it was his foresight to shoot from that position that got his side off to the perfect start. “It opened up for me and just came off his leg and wrong-footed the keeper,” he said. “If you don’t shoot, you don’t score and especially the way it was today with a little bit of dew on the grass, it’s always going to trouble the keeper – as you could see from their goal. Nathan’s been excellent all season so we can’t say anything about the goal really. Maybe we could have followed up and helped him out a little bit more but it was about having the character to come back and be solid from that goal. It was a bit of a blow but we’re going back to our place with a one-goal lead, so we’d have grabbed your hands for that.”
The Fleet go into Sunday’s second leg unbeaten in 21 games and if they extend that to 22, they’re in the final. Rance believes his side have what it takes to finish the job.
“Momentum’s massive,” he said. “I think from Christmas time you’ve seen, since the cup game against Kidderminster, we had to have a look at ourselves after that game and maybe it woke a few people up. Today shows you’ve got to do the basics well, you’re not just going to turn up and win games of football. As you’ve seen over 21 games, we can do both sides: we can get it down and play but if we have to go a little more ugly, we can do that as well.”
There have been plenty of positive comparisons of this year’s side to last, but Rance believes it’s just fine margins that have seen his side improve on last year’s points total.
“The work rate’s never been questioned since I’ve been here. Last year was just little details but we’ve added and strengthened as time’s gone on. The togetherness in the changing room is really good as you’ve seen in the last couple of games where we’ve gone 1-0 down and come back and won. It’s all irrelevant now but it shows the character. Even from last season when we lost the play-off final like we did, to come back and do what we’ve done this season is extraordinary really an to think of the points tally we’ve got over the last two years.
“It’s less of a blow than it was last year because it was in our hands last year and we let it go ourselves. This year, it’s always been for us to gain, not for us to lose. We’ve plugged away and it’s helped us because we’ve now got the momentum going into the play-offs and they say that form goes out the window but I don’t really agree with that because if you’re winning 21 games, you’re only going to be confident going into the play-offs.”
And while there is confidence in the Fleet camp, Rance was at pains to point out it’s not over-confidence. “We were in this position with Whitehawk last season,” he recalled. “We probably should have gone back with a bigger lead and that went to penalties so we know what can happen. But I think we’re more equipped this season than we were last season. We’ll go out attacking and look for the early goal.”
Listen to the full interview below.