It’s a useful stat for the Fleet to take encouragement from – that they haven’t lost back-to-back games since Kevin Watson took over – but adding back-to-back wins will be crucial as the season’s remaining games tick down to single figures.
Fleet’s last set of successive wins came in late October, just before we met Stockport at Edgeley Park, and a timely repeat off the back of the midweek win at Maidenhead would light a fire under the survival bid once more.
Stockport supporters are expected to travel in healthy numbers on what is likely to be another stormy weekend on and off the pitch, with Watson and his squad hoping home fans are in good voice against their opposite numbers after a positive Fleet showing at Maidenhead.
The debut of Michael Timlin, quietly tidy and an expressive voice in midfield on Tuesday, was long overdue for the Fleet although just as he got one extra body in the squad, so Watson lost others.
Marvel Ekpiteta and Ayo Obileye were rated only as “maybes” for inclusion this weekend, while the manager wasn’t convinced David Gregory would be anywhere near fit following the goalkeeper’s removal on a stretcher quarter of an hour into the match at York Road.
That doesn’t present Watson with too many problems, however, as Jordan Holmes slotted straight back into the action without a hint of having been out of the team for two months.
The return to the goalscoring charts of both Gozie Ugwu (pictured) and Josh Umerah on Tuesday night could not have come at a more timely moment for the Fleet, with neither striker having found the net this calendar year. And last time Ugwu ended a barren spell, he went on a burst, netting six goals in four games. A repeat of that form after the No.9’s fantastic double strike in midweek would go some way towards Fleet’s points target.
Despite the understandable despondency after the Chesterfield defeat, Fleet have actually accrued a decent points tally of late and sit eighth in the form table, having taken 11 points from a possible 18. It’s a total that if repeated across the next seven or eight matches would certainly keep the sides above anxious to the last.
By contrast, Stockport travel in hope of reversing some fairly wretched form – and climbing back into the play-off places. Although lying 10th, they are one of four sides above them on 51 points and with recent squad investment, are clearly not happy to rest on their laurels following promotion last season.
Manager Jim Gannon has recruited three players from 2018/19’s Salford City play-off winners – Lois Maynard, Liam Hogan and the dangerous Danny Lloyd who returns for a second spell at Edgeley Park.
He has also added strikers Jordan Archer from Port Vale and FC Halifax Town top scorer Liam McAliden, although he may well be a doubt with a cracked rib. Maynard has also sat out recent games.
County do have goals from midfield as well, however, with Elliot Osborne one to watch. Both players who led the line against the Fleet back in November, Devante Rodney and Frank Mulhern, have since departed.
The Hatters are probably one of the more inconsistent sides in the division, having enjoyed two or three excellent spells of form, followed by indifferent runs. It’s the latter that Stockport are currently suffering, with only one win in 10 in all competitions and just four goals scored in their last eight National League games.
And Gannon’s men will also be looking for their first win at the Kuflink Stadium in their third visit, having previously lost one and drawn one.
• Fleet fans are free to visit the Main Stand bar following the game where the man of the match presentation will be made, with the chosen player and manager Kevin Watson in attendance.
The match is not segregated and Stockport fans may use the club bar at the covered Plough End of the ground. Car-parking is available at Ebbsfleet International Station Car Park C for £3. This is the best option for parking near the stadium. Please respect local businesses by not blocking private property. Drivers are also warned that parking on the Thames Way clearway near the roundabout runs the risk of being ticketed.