Fleet return to Stonebridge Road this Saturday hoping to rekindle the blistering home form of September after three weeks on the road. The two away league games, either side of the FA Cup exit at Merstham, yielded four more points but Daryl McMahon believed his side should have taken six.
“The second-half performance at East Thurrock was good,” he told FleetOnline. “We controlled the game and moved the ball a lot better than in the first half and it kept our unbeaten run of five games going, with three of those away from home. But given the chances we created and should have put away, it felt like two points dropped rather than one gained to be fair.”
The Fleet boss is glad to be back on home soil this weekend after the disappointment of Merstham and he has the leading pack in his team’s sights. “You look historically at this league,” he said, “and there’s always one team who goes out in front – it was us last year. There’s often that pattern to this division. I’m not saying that’s nailed-on to happen this season but we’ve got to put ourselves in a position where we’re within touching distance of the top teams around February for the run-in. If that times comes earlier, so be it, but the point is we have to make sure we’re in touching distance throughout. That’s the case now with all the teams up to second and it’s up to us to rein Maidenhead in if and when we get the chance.”
McMahon also believes his side are better equipped this season with improvements still to come, whereas last season’s squad had peaked early. “Look at us at this stage last season… looking back at it now, I think the team was playing at its absolute maximum. players were maxed out and performing to their best levels. I look at us now and I think there’s massive growth in this team still. It’s a better side than last year’s in my opinion and it’s not hit its full potential yet so that gives us great hope.”
The Fleet boss should be able to welcome Kenny Clark back into the fold after the defender trained this week – and managed to come through the rough and tumble of Wednesday night’s Over 50s football without too many over-the-top tackles! “Kenny’s trained well this week. He’s not match sharp but is back in contention. JP [Kissock] had a dead leg after the Kent Senior Cup game and that was ongoing but he’s trained fully this week as well and he’s over it now.”
But as two are poised to return, one more looks to be ruled out with Stuart Lewis having taken a knock in training. “He’s gone for a scan,” McMahon said, “so we’re not sure yet of the extent of that, we’ll find out more next week.”
Aside from gaining three points in this campaign, Fleet will be mindful for a measure of revenge as Bath’s late goals last season took at least three points away from McMahon’s side. The corresponding fixture in 2015/16 (pictured above) saw Kaid Mohamed’s 90th-minute goal seal a victory in December, while a late penalty robbed Fleet of a win at Twerton Park in March.
Bath’s five wins out of six games towards the end of August saw them make a solid start but Gary Owers’ side have managed just one win since, a 4-0 thrashing of Gosport Borough. They were beaten 1-0 at home by Dartford last week and were also dismissed from the FA Cup by lower-league opposition.
Since last we met, Owers has drafted in a number of new faces with the most recognisable being defender Manny Monthe who has gained decent reviews in his time at Twerton Park – though Fleet fans will better remember him as one of the players sent off in the four-man red-card storm at home to Hayes & Yeading last season.
George Rigg, a highly rated player from Weymouth, is another new signing this season while experienced striker Marvin Morgan is on a season-long loan from Havant & Waterlooville and enjoying his football again, with five goals so far. Youngster Ryan Broom was drafted in this month from Bristol Rovers and scored within two minutes of first appearance and is another to watch out for as Bath look to inflict more damage on a record against the Fleet that has seen them lose only 21 of 71 clashes against us.