Fleet’s first TV appearance of the season rolls around this Saturday with a second trip of 2019 to Harrogate Town’s CNG Stadium.
Garry Hill’s side nicked the three points on their one and only visit before, Andy Drury’s late goal winning that one back in February against a side that eventually made the play-offs.
Buoyed in midfield for this trip by the capture of Crawley man Josh Payne, Fleet will be hoping to step up a gear after last Saturday’s narrow defeat at Wrexham.
New boy Payne signed off from Crawley duty with an excellent goal from outside the box at Walsall last week but he voluntarily swapped League Two for the National League because he wanted more regular football – and he goes into the Fleet squad vying for a place at Harrogate.
He’s not the only new face on the coach, either, with former Rotherham and Colchester midfielder Kevin Watson having come into the club in place of Ian Hendon as assistant manager.
This first game of October begins a run of matches against sides below the Top 10 in the National League so Fleet know there’s ample opportunity in the weeks ahead to improve their points haul – and an urgent requirement to do so.
The challenge for the Fleet at Harrogate is greater now, however, than it might have been a few weeks ago. The Yorkshire side have risen to fourth in the form table after an indifferent start to the campaign that left them far behind last season’s run to the play-offs.
There was plenty of talk of second-season syndrome as Town languished in 18th place, losing five of their opening 10 games. But consecutive wins over FC Halifax Town and Sutton United has pushed them into 12th place and they go into this weekend’s match unbeaten in four.
Clearly missing key defender Callum Howe, who left for Solihull on the eve of the season, Harrogate have shipped four goals on two occasions this season. But manager Simon Weaver has steadied the ship and refused to panic.
He has drafted in Sunderland loanee striker Jack Diamond while Lincoln City midfielder Alex Bradley is on a season-long arrangement. They are added to summer signings that include former Fleet winger Brendan Kiernan as well as Scott Brown (Accrington Stanley), Connor Hall (Brackley Town), Will Smith (Barnsley), George Smith (Chesterfield) and the experienced Jon Stead (Notts County), all of whom will be expected to play a part against the Fleet.
One area Fleet might hope to exploit is Harrogate’s relative lack of goals; they have the lowest goalscoring record of the Top 14 clubs and have failed to find the net in five matches this season. Mark Beck is their top scorer with three goals, while Joe Leesley also has three but he is currently at Stockport on loan.
One Harrogate player who stood out in both games against the Fleet last season was skipper Josh Falkingham. He’s been out for a spell with an ankle injury so may struggle to make this game.
Click below for LV Bet’s guide to the latest odds for the match: