If Fleet can escape from Poole Town with three points, it will be a fine haul at the end of a very difficult month.
January has seen trips to Wealdstone, not the easiest place to gain three points, as well as National League North high-flyers Kidderminster Harriers and now fourth-placed Poole Town. Added to home games against fellow top-five clubs Dartford and Chelmsford City, on paper January has been Fleet’s most testing four-week period.
If Daryl McMahon’s men can make it four league wins out of four, the FA Trophy exit will mark only a minor blemish on an otherwise decent few weeks – and more importantly keep the pressure on leaders Maidenhead United.
Mark Phillips was the only casualty of last weekend injury-wise (with Dave Winfield returning to the starting lineup and Andy Drury appearing from the bench) but Yado Mambo was also named amongst the substitutes and stands ready again should Phillips not return.
Fleet’s 2-0 win over Chelmsford was the 15th point from a possible 18 since the beginning of December and that’s the kind of return McMahon will be seeking as we head into the final three months of the season.
Poole Town were not expecting a pitch inspection as of Friday though with rain forecast overnight, that is a position that may be revisited. The Dorset club had some good news in midweek after gaining planning permission for works on their Tatnam Ground after much-publicised threats of demotion at the end of the season should they fail to complete necessary upgrading works – though the Dolphins still have to raise the money to pay for it now.
It will be Fleet’s first visit to Tatnam – which is situated on what was a school playing field – with our last visit to Poole in 1994 coming in the last season of their occupancy of the old racing stadium. The Dolphins have come a long way since then and indeed have come a long way since their 4-0 thrashing at Stonebridge Road last August.
That result (though not their performance which warranted a better return) might have suggested a struggle for the newly promoted side but in their very next game they managed to inflict defeat on Maidenhead United and have strung together plenty of impressive results since. They have beaten Chelmsford 4-0 and Gosport 7-0 at Tatnam this season and, like ourselves, have lost just a single game on home soil.
Manager Tommy Killick has just celebrated 700 games in charge of the club and he has this week signed former Bournemouth and Aldershot midfielder Josh Wakefield while Corby Moore, who played for Chelmsford in their 2-1 win over the Fleet in September, has also arrived recently. Like the Fleet, Poole have spread the goals out between the squad this season with set-piece specialist Steve Devlin managing eight while loanee Sam Surridge with seven has returned to parent club Bournemouth. Strike pairing Richard Gillespie and Luke Roberts have five apiece. Gillespie, however, is injured and with him on the sidelines is defender Lewis Lindsey and the suspended Lewis Tallack.
Poole are calling for a big crowd tomorrow as they seek to publicise their ground plight and with Bournemouth lacking a home game, chances are high that the Dolphins could reach the 700-mark to top recent attendances at Tatnam.