It has been a fortnight since Fleet last tasted league football and the enforced break has everyone at the club restless for real action. During the period of inactivity, Fleet’s cushion in the play-off zone has been eroded ever so slightly, with Sutton leap-frogging Steve Brown’s side into third place while the likes of Eastbourne and Bishop’s Stortford have edged a tiny bit closer.
Not that it’s been time off for the management and playing staff. Steves Brown and Gritt have been hard at work scouting future opponents and they also attended the first round of Academy trials alongside new youth managers Daryl McMahon and Steve Watt. They ran the rule over the Under 16s in a friendly against Dagenham as well, as the club begins to really revitalise its links with its youth sides.
The players, meanwhile, have had to get used to training at Stonebridge Road due to the wet weather rendering their usual Chislehurst ground unplayable for a spell but the sessions have enabled Shane Huke and Yado Mambo to continue their paths to full fitness.
Saturday sees Chris Sessegnon’s return from suspension and his tussle with Joe Howe for the No.2 shirt will be Brown’s main selection headache. That goes double for the central defensive pairing, with Osei Sankofa, Paul Lorraine and Anthony Acheampong chasing two places. Ben May’s goal against Whitstable in the Kent Senior Cup semi-final has him pushing for a starting place up front as Michael Thalassitis, while out of his cast following a wrist injury, is still a little way off full training.
Farnborough’s mixed season has placed them in the middle of the Skrill South table though still with slender hopes of sneaking a play-off spot. They would have to put together a consistent set of results for that, however, as they trail fifth-placed Weston by 12 points, albeit with three games in hand. On the flip side, they are only eight points clear of the drop zone and that is likely to be the main focus of their thoughts with a tough fixture schedule ahead of them.
A late start to the season and financial woes that have seen Boro lose influential players along the way hasn’t helped matters for Spencer Day’s side and in recent weeks he has lost Elvis Hammond to Eastbourne, winger Tyrone Berry, a former Fleet trialist, and Moses Ashikodi – both of them to Cray Wanderers. And on the eve of the Fleet game, striker Jon Nurse – who was due to play his last game for Farnborough at Stonebridge Road – has been recalled from his loan spell by parent club Barnet.
But Day has not been slow in recruiting replacements including the loan signing of a teammate and friend of Thalassitis at Stevenage, midfielder Matt Ball, who scored in Farnborough’s first away win in eight attempts in midweek. Harry Lee has arrived on loan from Leyton Orient, though is rated only 50/50 for a place at Stonebridge Road while striker George Sykes ends his loan spell this weekend before returning to Barnet.
Ade Cole (Blackpool) is a further recent acquisition, striker Connor French has signed from Walton Casuals and young ex-Arsenal trainee defender Luis Morrison-Derbyshire is yet another new face – so it will be something of a different side to the one that narrowly lost at home to the Fleet just six weeks ago.
Boro will also welcome back Adam Doyle and Alfred Bosch, both of whom missed their Tuesday night fixture at Hayes. And while Boro will miss the finesse and experience of Nurse, Fleet also need to watch out for Phil Page who caught the eye in our first game and has been in very good form of late.
Manager Day is confident his new-look side are ready for a tough month ahead: having played Eastleigh recently, Boro now have to contend with the Fleet, Sutton and Bromley in the space of two weeks. “[Tuesday] was our best footballing display of the season,” Day said. “We’ve hit the post three times and their keeper has pulled off two unbelievable saves. If it had been four or five they wouldn’t have had any complaints. We’ve a lot of football to play in a short space of time but we’re confident we can cause a few upsets.”
Form (last six games)
Fleet: W W L D W W
Farnborough: L W W L L W