Fleet boss Steve Brown is currently weighing up his options ahead of two clashes against Dover in the Kent Senior Cup and Skrill South Promotion finals. Following his side’s progress at Bromley, Brown sat down with Steve Gritt last night to pore over his permutations ahead of Monday’s first final at Priestfield, knowing that with a relatively small squad, he will have to give several first-choice players a runout in both games.
“I have not thought beyond these two Bromley games,” Brown told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster. “We’ll start discussing Monday’s final straight away. I’ll see the reactions of the players tomorrow – Acheampong’s come off with an injury and we’ve lost Dean Rance, I don’t know whether that’s an immediate three-game ban but I know he’s missing Saturday’s final for sure.
“So we’ll have to assess what we’ve got left and who’s available and pick the squad that can get us a result on Monday. Saturday’s final affects my thinking for selection greatly if I’m honest. I’ve got to protect what I have, I’ve got to protect what was out there today. I’ve got players at my disposal that were rested today that can come in Monday but we’ll just see what comes tomorrow when they’ve all rested up and had a night’s sleep and had a chance to recover. We’ll get the information in and see who’s in the best condition to go again Monday.”
With the way the cards have fallen, pitting Dover against Ebbsfleet in a winner-takes-all final and all the attendant media scrutiny that will bring, Brown is refusing to let talk of the opposition cloud his thinking.
“At the start of the season there’s some very good Skrill South teams pitting their wits trying to get promoted and what we’ve done is given ourselves a 90-minute opportunity, a 50-50 chance to get into the Skrill Premier,” Brown said. “The opposition doesn’t really come into play. It wouldn’t matter whether it’s Bromley in the final, Dover, Sutton, Havant, it’s irrelevant. It’s an opportunity for Ebbsfleet United to get back into the Premier at the first time of asking.”
Nonetheless, the Fleet boss was far from surprised that it’s his old club he’s facing in the Promotion Final. “Dover have got the best away record in the league so I’m not surprised they got through,” Brown added. “Sutton are a very good side but I did say last week that it was finely poised and it’s a fantastic achievement for Dover to get through with 10 men for 87 minutes away at Sutton which I know is not an easy place to go. So fair play – if you win 3-0 away from home with 10 men, you thoroughly deserve to go through.”
As to his own team’s performance at Hayes Lane, Brown acknowledged it wasn’t particularly pretty and he didn’t expect it to be, with a 4-0 lead carried over from the first leg.
“The players knew what they had to do and they knew what we needed to get through,” Brown explained. “The 4-0 lead we brought over here today allowed us the comfort of not having to score a goal. We had many opportunities today in possession of the ball to create chances to score and they faded out. That was because the mentality out there today I felt was just not to allow Bromley to get close to our four goals.
“They scored midway through the first half and we knew it was going to be direct, we knew they were going to throw lots of players forward. They started with a very attacking side, so to concede just the one is a plus. I thought it was a very good goal, a great diagonal pass from [Joe] Anderson and a very, very good volley and finish.”
The manager shrugged off the scoreline under the circumstances and with the job having been more or less complete in Fleet’s superb display in the first leg. “You would have seen a different attacking side in Ebbsfleet if we’d have needed to get a goal,” said Brown. “But there were times when we turned and went out to the corners, times when we turned and played it back to the full backs, times where we played 10-yard balls when we could have been a bit more incisive – but you have to understand the mentality of the team was just to get us through today.”