Ebbsfleet United are down to their final three friendlies, with the visit of Southend United first up this Saturday. The League One club narrowly missed out on the play-offs, with Millwall eventually winning promotion after finishing just a point ahead in 2016/17. As such, the Shrimpers are expected to be Fleet’s toughest opponents of the summer schedule and Daryl McMahon is hoping for another major examination of his squad’s credentials.
“These latter friendlies, we’re looking at those to assess performances,” he told FleetOnline. “We’re looking to see that people are starting to hit some sort of form, but I also think it’s important to get through the games fit. Every single footballer in my squad is looking around thinking, I want to play at Guiseley away. And there’s a squad of 20-plus who want to play so there’s a competitive edge that will be increasing. It’s already in training and in the friendly games and it will only increase as we progress. For me, in the back end of pre-season, it’s vital that we see performances.”
While that’s at the forefront of the manager’s thinking, he’s also got one eye on squad fitness and he hopes to avoid a repeat of the injury problems which plagued Fleet’s opening to last season.
“In pre-season the results don’t matter if I’m being brutally honest. There’s nothing wrong with winning them, obviously, you like to win every game that’s the way we are. But realistically you need to get through with a clean bill of health,” McMahon said. “In terms of injuries, we had a nightmare last year in pre-season with them. The game against Sutton, I picked a formation and team that I knew I wasn’t going to play against Poole Town the following week because of injury. In terms of preparation, it was absolutely pointless but we had to fulfil the fixture. We didn’t play well and we lost it but the following week we won 4-0 with the side that I did want to play. So it’s just one of those things that you hope to get through with a clean bill of health and getting everyone fit and ready for the start of the season.”
Fleet suffered one injury on Tuesday night to Andy Drury, when the midfielder rolled his ankle, and that was being assessed late this week. Anthony Cook (groin) and Myles Weston (calf) had minor strains to keep them out of Tuesday’s match against Cambridge, but they are expected to be fit again by Saturday. For Weston, it’s an opportunity to shine against a former club where he won promotion.
And McMahon said of the new signing (pictured above), “In the early games, against Tonbridge and Spurs, we gave him a role in behind the strikers. He’s obviously a winger or striker by trade but he’s an intelligent footballer, he recognises where spaces are so he can come in and play and run in behind. He fits the bill for us, he’s a bright footballer and exciting to watch without a doubt. He’s a player I’ve been looking at for over a year, even going into last summer, we were interested in him and Jack Payne but obviously because we didn’t get out of the South, it never came through. So we’re delighted to get them in this year.
“It’s something we’ve tried to do this summer in terms of the age of the squad to bring in that sort of early- to mid-twenties player that are young, hungry and have got something to prove. I think Luke Coulson falls into that bracket as well, as do some of the players we’d got already.”
Phil Brown’s Southend have so far beaten Braintree Town 2-1 and Bishop’s Stortford 4-0 on their summer travels and fielded strong teams in both games. Their line-up could include the likes of Anton Ferdinand, Marc-Antoine Fortune and a former Republic of Ireland international who played at Euro 2012, Simon Cox. Former Wolves, Burnley and Stoke City midfielder Michael Kightly, who played against us for Grays Athletic a decade ago, is also a newcomer to the Southend squad this summer.
Admission for the 3.00pm kick-off is £10 adults, £8 concessions, £5 juniors and U12s are free with a paying adult.
Please note that commencing with the game v Southend United on Saturday, the policy at every home game will be that no alcohol will be allowed within sight of the playing area – this is in line with rules we will have to comply with for all our games in the 2017/2018 season.
**Also, a note for your diaries, Tuesday’s friendly at Hendon FC will kick-off at 7.30pm.